More than half of the children and young people who text Shout for support do so at night and into the early hours of the morning.
Some are turning to us in the small hours because nobody else is around to talk to. Many more are being driven to us by posts from social media users recommending Shout, which young people are seeing at night because they are taking their phones to bed.
While we don't fully understand the impact of social media on our mental health, we do know that using devices to interact with people and social content late at night can negatively impact our sleep. This disturbs the good night’s rest that is important for maintaining our mental health and wellbeing.
So how can we, as parents and carers, better support the wellbeing of our children and families when it comes to using devices at home, especially at night?
Make a family-wide agreement about using devices at home
- Sit down as a family and, together, come up with some boundaries for when you should and shouldn’t use devices at home. Be sure to stick to this agreement yourself and model the behaviour you want your children to adopt.
- If you need some ideas to get started, The British Psychological Society suggests that families should agree to limit device use for at least 30 minutes before bed and to leave all devices charging outside of bedrooms.
Boost your family’s news literacy skills
- While social media provides important ways for young people to communicate with each other, information is not always accurately described by influencers and social media users. This can leave young people feeling isolated and confused,especially in the middle of the night, when nobody is around to talk to and when tiredness affects your ability to manage thoughts and emotions.
- Help your child discover alternative trusted sources of information, like the News Literacy Network’s list of child-friendly news sources for under 18s.
Help your child identify their support network
- Every child and young person needs an adult they can talk to. But sometimes, as parents and carers, we just aren’t available, or we might not be the right person.
- Talk with your child about the adults in their life who they trust and would feel safe turning to for support, such as other family members, neighbours or teachers.
- Connection is vital for good mental health and wellbeing and all children should be able to identify their support network. That, of course, goes for adults too.
Let your child know what mental health support is out there for them
- Whether or not your child is experiencing a mental health challenge right now, there might be a time in their life when they need support or need help to make sense of their thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
- Every young person is unique, so it’s important to help them find the support that best suits them and their needs, whether it’s text support from Shout, practical advice and information from YoungMinds, telephone and online support from The Mix or free one-to-one counselling sessions from Switch180.
Know where you can turn for support
- Organisations such as Place2Be and the Mental Health Foundation provide information and advice for parents around supporting children’s mental health.
- Mind has guidance for parents who might be struggling with their own mental health.
- If you are worried about your child’s or your own mental health you can speak to your GP as a first step.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you can text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained volunteer for free, at any time of the day or night.