Protecting the mental health of young netizens during a global pandemic
As we are practising social distancing norms during the quarantine and the kids have stopped going to schools or having any physical means of communication, it has almost become necessary for them to be on the internet for any kind of work. Be it, Classes, at school or tuitions or extracurricular activities or just having to do something other than this, it is all happening online. This increased activity of an increased audience on the internet will increase the impact of negative aspects of Being Online as well.
While the internet is a great place and has facilitated our lives during this pandemic in more ways we can imagine, it has a side that can seriously affect the mental wellbeing of the kids.
The effect on mental wellbeing
Due to increased online activity, the kids today have exposure to social media more than ever. While social media is a great place to be to stay connected with your friends and family in these difficult times, it opens up certain new avenues as well where they are exposed to a certain type of content, opinions, views and ideas which their young minds might comprehend correctly.
There is a lot of content out there on social media which might be too sexual, gruesome or scarring in nature which could either be directed towards them or be present in their timelines. More than just the social media platforms, due to a centrally unregulated online and OTT industry there has been an increase in the influx of content on these platforms that sexually explicit and violent. There have been reports of students being exposed to certain deeply disturbing content in their online classes as well. Being new and naïve also exposes them to scammers and fraudsters who feed on the incompetency of these young netizens.
Constantly being on social media also exposes them to the already prevalent negativity and hate on the stories, fleets, tweets, feed posts, comments and tags. This might not have an instantaneous effect like being exposed to a disturbing piece of content has, but this constant exposure to negativity, affects them on a deeper level which later affects the relationships with friends and family as well. The uncertainty of dates of school and competitive exams has also caused the young teenagers, and their parents, to be anxious and confused about their life and their prospects of education.
Protecting the young netizen
Just like the best way to fight the coronavirus as a community is the social distancing and listening to experts, the best way to fight the negativity on the internet is the digital distancing. Where one tries to stay away from this type of content. A few tips to do that could be.
Try to observe what kind of content an individual, an influencer or an organisations posts before following them. Only follow them if one prefers to consume their content, in this way one is less likely to consume their content. One can also unfollow or block them if they don’t like their content or face some kind of inappropriate behaviour.
If one is facing issues of dealing with negative and hateful comments on Instagram or youtube, try visiting the ‘Comments’ section of ‘Privacy settings’ in the app. One can manually filter out the comments which they don’t want to see. They can also switch on the automatic filter that filters out the common offensive comments.
A digital detox could also be helpful, where one uninstalls all the social media apps from their devices. This method is helpful if one is looking for a break from all the negativity on the internet, however, they should not make it a force of habit as then it would an individual incapable with dealing with any kind of negativity around them.
Consulting with parents and family and telling them how one exactly feels seems a little difficult for teenagers but is surely helpful.
These tips were just an outline and basic ideas of how one should deal with situations which might affect their mental well being, but to get a broader and comprehensive understanding of digital well being and much more, they can always refer to recently launched Cyber Safety Handbook Launched by the CBSE and cyber peace foundation.