Digital resilience: how health and care practitioners can help teens with mental health difficulties

Digital resilience: how health and care practitioners can help teens with mental health difficulties

I’ve recently written a blog post and report for NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation Programme based on a review of the evidence along with interviews and focus groups with young people. The report focuses on digital resilience of teens with mental health difficulties. You can find the blog post here and the full report...
Connected realities – what do practitioners need to know about teens’ online lives?

Connected realities – what do practitioners need to know about teens’ online lives?

“What if we thought about the internet a resource to be deployed rather than as a problem to be solved?” (Jenkins et al, 2016, p.36)  What if we move our focus from a deficit orientated understanding of the online lives of teens to an asset-orientated approach which builds on young people’s strengths? And what does this mean for practitioners working with teens who have mental health difficulties? Perhaps there are better ways of approaching teens’ online lives that enable us to be more effective practitioners. I am endlessly intrigued by teens’ use of the internet, social media and digital technologies. It is a fascination brought about in equal parts from observing my three teenagers and from the many and various projects we do with teens at mHabitat. I am particularly curious about how health and care practitioners help teens navigate the digital sphere (or not) in their everyday work. Practitioners are worried about the impact of social media on teens, concerned about risk, and at the same time drawn to how apps could help deliver care. Meanwhile teens are frustrated about adults’ lack of understanding about their online lives and are looking for guidance and support which is often lacking. This set of disconnected realities between teens and practitioners is the subject of a book I am writing with Dr James Woollard. It is a guide for practitioners to help them explore, understand and appreciate teens’ online lives; and to enable them to incorporate this understanding into their work with adolescents affected by mental health difficulties. The book will bring together the evidence along with stories derived from my...
Layers of delight (and the joy of online social networks with my teens)

Layers of delight (and the joy of online social networks with my teens)

Ok, so I know there are plenty of aspects of online social networks that are problematic. Particularly for teens. But sometimes I reflect on ways in which online social networks, and our smartphones, afford layers of connection between myself and my three children (12, 14 and 17) which give me unmitigated joy and delight. Things are expressed that would never be said face to face. Experiences can be shared even when we are far apart. We can collaborate in novel and pleasurable ways. Here are just ten examples… Sharing special moments from afar – the time when my daughter allowed me to share her first experience of Glastonbury festival by sending me WhatsApp video clips of the moment when she met her favourite music artist Helping each other out – all the times when my daughter asks for my advice on her clothing purchases via Facetime from shop dressing rooms Bad humour– the atrocious comedy memes and GIFs via WhatsApp from my son Saying what can’t be said in person – my daughter congratulating me on passing my PhD viva via text message when she could only be tetchy to my face Liking my stuff – when my son hearts my Instagram posts and his friends (bizarrely) start following my account Keeping a close but surreptitious eye – my daughter blocking me on Facebook only to allow her BFF to friend me so that she can spy on my posts via her account Sharing the love – my daughter sending me heart emojis and telling me she loves me via WhatsApp when she will never say it to my...
It’s complicated – the social lives of networked teens (in America and at home)

It’s complicated – the social lives of networked teens (in America and at home)

How complicated is it for teens and adults to navigate an increasingly networked world?, I have been riveted by Danah Boyd’s research on this topic, and it has shed light on many of the issues I spend my time contemplating and occasionally fretting about as a parent. It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens (2014) is the result of years of ethnographic research into social media use by American teenagers. Boyd explores themes of identity, privacy, addiction, danger, bullying, inequality and literacy. She illuminates teen behaviours online and challenges common myths and assumptions held by many adults. According to Boyd, rather than being addicted to social media, most teens are simply addicted to their friendships.  Social media provide a means for teens to engage with friends in online public spaces at a time when their offline worlds are increasingly controlled and limited by adults. After- school activities, and fear of dangers lurking on every street corner, constrain the extent to which teens are able occupy public spaces. I hate to admit it, but this is comparatively the case for my teens when I think about the relative freedom I had as a child. As a mother of a 15 year and a 12 year old almost-teen (my 10 year old too young to be interested in social media) this book helped me reflect on what I know of their online behaviours and also to think back to my experiences at a similar age. I recall being attached to my landline by an invisible thread, waiting for phone calls to make arrangements or plans; if I went out then...