Without question, the Internet can be a toxic place for young people. But withdrawing access to it isn't the right answer

Teenagers today live their lives online as much as offline

Share
Related Topics

The internet is a fantastic resource for young people looking for information, advice, and even to socialise. But for a significant number, it also provides access to potentially harmful and so-called “toxic” content. MindFull supports 11-17 year olds, and many of the young people that we’ve worked with have told us they’ve seen pro-anorexia or bulimia sites, pro-self harm content and even pro-suicide.

Worryingly, nearly a third (29 per cent) of young people have self harmed because they ‘felt down’. But what's worse is there has also been a worrying trend for young people using social media to show off their self harming. Photo-sharing apps like Instagram and Snap Chat provide a place where they can post images and then have others comment on them, which sadly can lead to posts encouraging them to harm themselves more.

Most people look at these images and are shocked - but for these young people it can turn into competitive behaviour. They look at an image and think "they've cut deeper" than me - and then think they must do it too. It's similar to "thinspiration" sites - but these apps make everything more instant. When we spoke to young people about what they accessed online, 44 per cent said pro-self harm was the internet content that worried them most.

The temptation for worried parents could be to withdraw access to the internet altogether. However, in the digital world that we live in, this is a punishment worse that being ‘grounded’. Young people today live their lives online as much as offline, and removing access can leave them feeling isolated from their friends and peers. In fact, this approach can have the opposite of the intended effect, by discouraging children from talking about worrying things that they’ve seen to their parents.   

Schools are coming to us saying they have a problem but don’t know how to address it. At MindFull, we provide a positive, supportive online environment where young people are able to talk to a professional about how they feel and how to change these behaviours. Perhaps ironically, we rely on the digital world to provide the immediate, flexible support that young people have asked us for. 

Many parents might question why such content is not automatically blocked, and internet service providers do have a responsibility to ensure that children don’t accidentally access damaging content. However even this should be approached with caution. Previous attempts to block genuinely harmful content have inadvertently denied young people access to legitimate information, advice and support around sensitive issues due to inadequately nuanced filtering.

Those who come to us talk about everything from exam pressures to family problems, from depression to anxiety. We’d urge any young people struggling with self harm or any other wellbeing issues to visit MindFull today for support.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The possibility of Corbyn winning has excited some Conservatives  

Labour leadership: The choice at the heart of the leadership campaign

Jeremy Corbyn
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos  

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy