UK Schools are reporting a pupil mental health crisis. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks as well as self-harm and eating disorders are now so common in both primary and secondary schools, that teachers are obliged to offer more emotional support than ever before.
When I was at school in the 70s and 80s, there was very little in the way of pastoral care; you either sank or swam. However, problems that began at school, generally stayed there. My front door was a barrier to the outside world and if the school bully wanted to get at me, they would have to knock on my door or call on the one family landline, both routes ran the risk of being confronted by an adult.
Now, everything has changed. Children have smartphones and literally carry their social lives around in their pockets. This means much less downtime in which to process emotional problems, as kids are always “switched on”.
Whether children are given sufficient emotional support to deal with the fallout from our digital age rather depends on the school and local authority. Here in Sevenoaks we are fortunate to have a Conservative led council which understands that prevention is always better than cure, and recognises the vital importance of working with schools and other organisations to teach our children good digital habits.
When I co-founded the e-safety Digital Sunset Challenge which protects mental health by helping young children take a break from social media, it won immediate backing from the Sevenoaks District Community Safety Partnership.
Thanks to this support the Digital Sunset schools programme has helped thousands of children better control screen-time and protect their future mental health. It’s just one example of how schools, councils, parents and new ideas can come together to give our children the help they need to thrive in the modern world.