Social Media - the pressures on young people

Is social media more stressful than exams for pupils?

E-safety Social MediaAccording to Marion Gibbs, a retiring head teacher from James Allen's Girls School in Dulwich, teenagers feel more pressure and stress from social media than they do exams. She refers to a 'Goldfish bowl' world where girls especially feel an overwhelming pressure to look amazing and be popular.

Recently I have seen a definite rise amongst younger and younger students using social media as a platform to prove their popularity and the anxiety it causes when it goes wrong. So I am inclined to agree with Ms Gibbs opinions. I am talking from the position of step parent and teacher.

From my own experience, my selfie-stick loving step children have taken to using special apps in search of more followers on instagram because in their words 'you're really unpopular if you have no followers'. They are 9 and 12. Following on from that, I know of adults too that use these apps to increase their online profiles status by 'buying up' followers and likes. In an attempt to appear more successful and more popular in job hunting for example. The superlatives echo our need to feel accepted and looked up to. Are we all guilty? Do we all in fact feel the same pressures?

In my role a PSHE coordinator I am constantly hearing how students can have literally 24 hours a day of constant contact, photos, statuses and texts at the touch of a button. This can be a particular problem when students fall out and where it was previously left at school gates, now students complain of an inescapable virtual presence at every turn. And in an environment where students can have in excess of hundreds of friends and followers, every thought and picture is scrutinised, judged and commented on. Alluding to the pre aforementioned comments of the head teacher, these issues are all running parallel to an already stressful time of their young lives studying, learning and taking exams, against a backdrop of unequivocal pressure to be popular and to 'fit in'. I feel for them a great deal. As an 80's child, I am so pleased that our school years weren't filled with selfies and status updates and instead was just being nagged for spending a mere 5 minutes on a landline.

Scarily, it's now reported that kids can spend up to 44 hours a week in front of smart phones and tablets, with a further 23% admitting to some sort of addiction to games and social media. Potential warning signals of addiction can range from checking emails and status updates several times an hour; a complete loss of time when on phones and tablets, preferring to interact online than face to face and using tablets and phones first thing on waking and then last thing when going to sleep. Knowing this applies to at least half of my class, it's apparent how addiction and pressure to keep 'in the social media loop' is a complete distraction from real life and provides some sort of escapism.

So, looking forward, what can we do to alleviate these pressures and refocus children? I think firstly lead by example, I know I am guilty of scrolling through my phone during downtimes, it's important to show we can have self control and abide by no phone/tablet times - even though initially this would be unpopular it does provide an alternative focus from technology and gives a chance for free time to be 'uncontaminated'.

We can encourage students to turn off notifications from social media sites, if, every time the screen flashes up with another picture or status update, the young person is so tempted to stop what they're doing and then be drawn back into the cycle. A recent study by Johnathan Spira pefectly illustrates the issue in his findings. If you spend 30 seconds scrolling the internet it will then take you at least 5 minutes to fully re-engage in what you were doing beforehand.

Schools can also adopt good practice too by teaching children the pitfalls of using social media in unhealthy ways and understand its place in relationships. E-safety Support Premium and Premium Plus members can download a series of e-safety lessons that deal extensively with this topic.

We can raise awareness of campaigns like 'ditch your smart phone for a day' (June 28th)...I know I intend to heavily promote this in school, introducing it like a sponsored silence where it's a challenge and discussions can ensue where students share stories of how they coped and what they did with all their new found available time off social media. Ironically, the promotion of the event has massively gathered memento through sharing on social media sites, but, this is also how many people have been reached and reflected upon their own habits, moreover it reflects a desire amongst society to change our habits to improve our relationships and lifestyles. I know that June 28th will be an interesting experiment, no doubt reported in depth by some on social media the next day. I look forward to it.

A recent poll by Schools Improvement Net, posed the question 'Is the pressure to look good on social media harming young people?' - see the results here

Written by Vicki Dan on June 04, 2015 10:19

Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation

Parents’ concerns about social networking sites popular with children were revealed recently, as the NSPCC launched its Share Aware campaign to get families talking about socialising safely online.

An NSPCC panel of more than 500 parents from Mumsnet reviewed 48 of these sites and said all those aimed at adults and teenagers were too easy for children under 13 to sign-up to. On more than 40 per cent of the sites, the panel struggled to locate privacy, reporting and safety information.

At least three quarters of parents surveyed by the NSPCC found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on Sickipedia, Omegle, Deviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.

Those aimed at younger children, like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Popjam and Bearville, fared better and parents did not find any unsuitable content on them.

The NSPCC also asked just under 2,000 children and young people which social networking sites they used. Talking to strangers or sexual content were the main concerns mentioned by children. But they also thought the minimum age limit for signing up to many sites should be higher, despite saying they’d used the sites when they were underage.

The NSPCC has used the reviews to create a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “Children are taught from an early age that it is good to share but doing so online can be very dangerous. We must all be Share Aware. This Christmas many children will have been given a smart phone, a tablet computer, or a games console. So it’s the perfect opportunity for parents to have that important conversation with their children about who they are talking to and what they share when they socialise online.

“We know that children do take risks online, sometimes without realising it. And we know some parents feel confused by the internet – out of their depth, and out of control. Our Share Aware campaign gives parents straightforward, no-nonsense advice that will help them to untangle the web and feel confident talking to their children about online safety.

“Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation. Parents have a vital role to play but we want social networking sites to respond to parental concerns about their children’s safety and privacy. The NSPCC will continue to challenge and work with internet companies and the Government to make the internet a safer place for children.”

The NSPCC’s Share Aware campaign is aimed at parents of 8 to 12-year-old children and also features two animations to be shown on prime time TV and digital spaces. I Saw Your Willy and Lucy And The Boy are engaging films with a serious message that follow the stories of two children who share too much about themselves online. Both films contain the simple message that although children are taught that it’s good to share, this is not always the case online.

People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign at and join the debate on social media by following #ShareAware.

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at

Written by E-safety Support on January 22, 2015 13:37

In-app purchases - two sides to every story

I recently read an interesting story of a mother of a 12 year old boy, who is facing a £7,000 bill - a bill he inadvertently ran up by playing a popular online game on his mobile phone. Mrs Cox told the BBC that neither she nor her son were given any warning about the charges, incurred from purchases within the game application.

The situation arose when Mrs Cox’s son bought two add-ons within the game ‘Clash of the Clans’, which cost £5.98 in total; however, these transactions triggered a permissions setting that, from then on, allowed the phone to continue make in-app. purchases automatically - at a staggering rate of £240 per day.

Mrs Cox claimed that safeguards against such purchases were not in place and that firms offering apps should review procedures “…and forget making a profit from vulnerable people”.

A games expert stated, however, that there would have been an email receipt sent to the Google account that is registered on the phone. He also stated that there would also have been a warning when the game was initially downloaded and that on each occasion a purchase was made there would have been a request for an approval.

What this unfortunate story highlights is the obvious need for parents to be acutely vigilant of what their children are doing on their personal electronic devices and monitor their actions and behaviour. Now, teenagers may find this annoying and object to their ‘privacy’ being invaded, but this is just the same as wanting to know who they are hanging around with or setting a time when they should be home by - it’s called good parenting, the only difference being that it requires parents to realise that they need to talk to their children about their online activities and have an on-going understanding of the technological age that they are growing up in.

Having just read the above story, you may have formed the opinion that in-app purchases within children’s apps, such as games, are undoubtedly a bad thing and should be banned outright. Indeed, read most articles within the popular press about this controversial subject and you would quickly realise that you were not alone.

There is, however, another side to this story.

Recently, British publisher ‘Nosy Crow’ released an iPhone/iPad app called ‘Nosy Crow Jigsaws’, which is a collection of digital jigsaws based on artwork from the company’s own books and apps. Now, this app is a ‘freemium’ app - that is it is free to download but users have to buy packs of puzzles, via in-app purchases. This is, however, where Nosy Crow have been careful and have demonstrated a responsible awareness of the problems associated with in-app purchases in children’s apps.

When parents download the app, they get five free puzzles as well as others based on the company’s fairy tale apps. They are then offered the options of either purchasing packs of 10 puzzles at a time for £0.69 or unlocking the whole collection of 200 puzzles for £6.99. Setting an upper limit to unlocking the whole contents of a game/app is completely contrary to the usual business strategies of the freemium games industry, where publishers gain significant profit from heavy-spending users, but the company believes that offering the cap is a responsible approach and have gone as far as to purposefully not offer common game ‘rewards’ such as tokens or ‘gold coins’, which they believe confuse children as to whether or not they are spending real money.

What this highlights is a major dilemma for app development companies who specialise in mobile software aimed at children. On the one hand, these companies have to be sustainable and hence have profitable business strategies, but on the other, they wish to appear responsible and not be caught up in a situation such as the one described by Mrs Cox.

Up to now, this dilemma has not been resolved, so, until the app industry can consistently demonstrate a responsible approach to ‘freemium’ apps aimed at children, it remains the parent’s responsibility to constantly observe what their children are doing, not only on their computers, but on their mobile phones and tablets, to ensure that their enthusiasm for playing the game is not clouding their awareness and hence causing them to be duped into running up huge bills by making in-app purchases.

In a related news story recently, it was reported that Google is to pay out at least $19m in refunds to settle a formal complaint over unauthorised in-app purchases. Read more,

We would love to hear your thoughs on 'freemium' apps, so please let us know by using the commments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on September 11, 2014 08:24

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