IT is important for parents of children active on social media to understand how it has changed communication and the pressures it can bring, says a leading Ballarat school engagement and wellbeing teacher.
It comes as new research launched by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation reveals that nearly two thirds of young Australians (62 per cent) say that the mental health of young people is getting worse.
While pressures with school, community and work are among the leading contributors, the overwhelming numbers of respondents to the headspace survey say social media is the main cause of mental ill health.
Mount Clear College leading teacher engagement and wellbeing Heather McClure said the pressures on young people today were different to when their parents were going through school.
"People who have children at school would have had an argument with a friend at school when they were younger and then you'd switch off at night," Ms McClure said.
"Now you don't switch off, children have their phones or iPads in their bedroom, you don't turn off messaging.
"It's important to be aware of what your kids are up to, have that open conversation about their footprint online and let them know when you put something up online, it stays there."
A Ballarat mum, who asked not to be named, said having honest conversations with her children was the way she dealt with her social media concerns.
"You have to hope you've got the type of open dialogue in the relationship where your children will tell you if things are happening online that could be damaging," she said.
"It's difficult to know when to allow children to get social media, because it's how groups of friends communicate.
"Do you allow social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat because their friends are on that and risk your child being a victim of online bullying? Or keep them offline and risk them being ostracised from a friends group?"
Ms McClure said one of the biggest concerns she had with students was body image, particularly with boys.
"Body image is huge with boys, they want to work out, have muscles and that comes back to social media as well," she said.
"It's all about expectations of what we should look like. I'm sure teenagers follow thousands of 'influencers' with big muscles. Expectations are much different today.
"Cyberbullying is huge in society because it's anonymous. You see celebrities reading out troll messages, it's a worldwide issue."
TIPS TO LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
- Get in to life Keeping the fun in your life and doing things you love can give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose, boost your confidence and help to connect with others.
- Learn skills for tough times Taking a digital detox, listening to music, spending time outdoors or writing things down are just a few ways that can help you handle challenging times.
- Create connections Spending time with friends, family and people in your community, or joining a new club, even cutting back on social media use to allow more time to participate in activities like team sports can help you feel connected and meet new people.
- Eat well There is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel - staying hydrated and having a healthy diet with a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts and wholegrains can improve mental health.
- Stay active Staying active can help you to sleep better, manage stress and boost your mood. Make time to take a break from study or work to do some exercise, whether it be going to the gym, kicking a ball around with a friend or just going for a walk.
- Get enough sleep Reducing things like noise, light or active thing such as video gaming - can help you improve your sleep.
- Cut back on alcohol and other drugs Curbing the amount of alcohol and other drugs you use (or avoiding alcohol and drugs altogether) will help you manage your emotions better and improve your wellbeing.
headspace chief executive officer Jason Trethowan said there are many factors that contribute to the state of a young person's mental health.
"We know mental health is complex and there are many factors that contribute to a young person's wellbeing," he said.
"But it's clear from the research that social media is something young people have strong opinions about and it's something that appears to be creating more pressure day-to-day.
"A young person's real-world persona and online persona are so intertwined these days so for example, if they're being vulnerable online or sharing something personal and not getting the reaction they were hoping for, it can be really upsetting."
yourtown, which operates the Kids Helpline, said mental health issues and thoughts of suicide accounted for 59 per cent of all contacts made last year by children and young people.
"Each year we see an increase in mental health, emotional wellbeing and suicide-related concerns, they now account for 59.2 per cent or 39,812 of all counselling contacts," yourtown chief executive officer Tracy Adams said.
"Our concern is that this may be just the tip of the iceberg as only a small percentage of kids actually seek help. We really need to encourage more help-seeking among children and young people, particularly among boys."
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health call:
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Log onto headspace,org.au
Have you signed up to The Courier's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.