From the Sunday Tasmanian, September 18, 2016
TIME”™S UP ON SCREENS
How digital devices are building anxiety in our kids
TASMANIAN parents are being urged to help their children unplug from mobile devices amid concerns our hyper-connected world is adding to their anxiety and impacting on mental health.
One of the nation”™s leading mental health services for schools says the saturation of online games, information and social media is resulting in young children suffering “FOMO” ”” the “fear of missing out”.
The Principals Australia Institute, which delivers the mental health program KidsMatters and MindMatters in schools, has observed increased levels of anxiety in children and urges parents to let kids understand “it”™s OK not to know”.
And from page 11:
By Anne Mather
OUR hyper-wired children have the world at their fingertips – but the information overload riskd crowding their heads, educators and mental health experts have warned.
One of the nation”™s leading mental health services for schools says the saturation of online games, information and social media was resulting in young children suffering “FOMO” ”” the “fear of missing out”.
The Principals Australia Institute, which delivers the mental health program KidsMatters and MindMatters to schools, has urged parents to let children understand “it”™s OK not to know”.
The pressure on children to be connected was leaving them with anxiety when they were not connected, said Victoria Ninnes, a mental health worker and senior project officer with the institute.
“The FOMO they experience when not checking their phones or other devices leads to increased levels of anxiety,” Ms Ninnes said. “Kids need to learn to switch off.”
She urged parents to help children and young people find connection in other ways:
NATURE-BASED play and activities, which encourages switching off and mindfulness. SPORT and exercise.
FACE-TO-FACE communication with family and fiends.
DEVELOPING hobbies that are not reliant on devices.
Ms Ninnes said encouraging children to be outdoors was great for physical and mental health ”” although taking their screens with them was not.
The reality game Pokemon GO was not a true experience of being connected with the real world.
“We live in a beautiful, amazing world and we have to help kids tap in to that. They need to be connected to the environment and to be mindful.
“At first I was happy to see kids getting outside with Pokemon GO, but then I saw kids walking into walls.”
The challenge was to direct focus away from screens and back to real faces and experiences. The constant nature of social media has also raised concerns about the persistence and pervasiveness of cyber bullying.
“Social media has become a huge trigger point that has increased anxiety and depression. It has seen bullying become easier,” Ms Ninnes said.
Almost one in seven (13.9 per cent) of Australia”™s 4-17 year olds were assessed as having a mental health disorder in the 12 months leading up to a Commonwealth Government report released last year. Anxiety disorders accounted for half of mental disorders.
Hobart school principal Susan Ryan said digital technologies had opened up a wealth of social and learning opportunities for children but the constant connection had also seen a rise in anxiety.
Ms Ryan is completing a PhD on cyber bullying in secondary schools and how it affects school communities, including bystanders and staff.
“Research tells us really clearly that bullying in all its forms has a direct impact on health and wellbeing,” Ms Ryan said. “It affects levels of anxiety, self-esteem, ability to concentrate, school attendance and truancy.
“It can lead to feeling of isolation, depression and even suicide ideation. Bullying has a whole range of social and emotional impacts.”
Social media meant the bullying could now go on around the clock ”” as it allowed perpetrators to keep contacting victims outside of school gates and hours.
“The potential impact of bullying going beyond the school boundaries is vast,” said Ms Ryan, who is principal of Mount Carmel College.
“Cyber bullying is a whole new realm. There are no school walls and the audience is limitless. With cyber bullying, there is nowhere to hide.”
Unlike verbal or face-toface bullying, cyber bullying could also be spread to an unknown number of recipients and have an online permanence even after the initial image or message was deleted.
Reported rates of cyber bullying among young people varied from 10 to 40 per cent, but the variation was largely due to a lack of a clear and universal definition of what was meant by cyber bullying.
Ms Ryan said traditional bullying was any “repeated, intentional behaviour that involves an imbalance of power and violated another person”™s right to feel safe and protected”.
But, in the case of cyber bullying, Ms Ryan said repetition was not necessarily a criteria because a single instance could have deep penetration and permanence in cyberspace.
“One harmful post can really be magnified. The victim doesn”™t know how far and wide it has been distributed ”” even if it”™s deleted,” she said.
However, despite the downsides, Ms Ryan said there was no going back with social media, as it was the dominant avenue for socialising among young people.
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