Monthly Archives: December 2016

Parents’ posts shape child’s digital identity

Quick! Your son has just created a scene of destruction from the latest Star Wars movie on the lounge room floor and you have spotted him as he is about to launch himself from the couch into the abyss of carnage on the floor – do you a) stop him and say “wait a minute I need the camera for this one!” or b) stop him before he falls and tell him he does not have wings, will not survive the jump and needs to clean up his “fight to the death” before dinner?

With the advent of Facebook and other social media, the rise of the snap-happy parent continues to capture the downfall of unsuspecting kids who are just trying to be kids, pushing boundaries and having fun in their own individual way.

These parents can at times inadvertently blur the boundaries for their children when they opt to take a photo or video mid-tantrum, showing their latest mishap with play equipment or their latest do-it-yourself haircut – instead of disciplining their child when the incident takes place, frustrated, embarrassed or in fits of laughter they reach for the smartphone to capture the moment to post on social media for friends and family to see and comment on.

Researchers across the globe continue to study the effects of parental involvement in the development of a child’s digital identity.

According to research by UK domain registry host Nominet, parents average about 200 photo/video posts of their 0-5 year old children each year – about 1000 posts on social media before the age of five.

In an article for the Conversation “Think again before you post online those pics of your kids” Western Sydney University Technology and Learning researcher Joanne Orlando says this new behaviour norm means children can have a powerful digital identity created by someone else.

“This process can be likened to the manufacturing of celebrity identities, where parents can potentially shape the public persona of their child in any way they want: child genius, disobedient, fashionista, fussy eater and so on,” Ms Orlando says.

She questions whether parents skew posts of their children depending on how many likes and comments they believe may stem from them.

“There is also the issue of likes and comments on those photos. Without realising it, are we choosing to upload posts about our kids that we hope will get the most audience attention? If so, how is this skewing the identity we are shaping for them?”

Ms Orlando says parents need to remember the lasting nature of online content.

“Given the relative youth of social media, it’s hard to say exactly how growing up online could affect children’s privacy, safety and security. But social media has also been around long enough now (Facebook is now 14 years old) that it’s important to seriously consider the issue.”

“It’s time to question how individuals (both children and adults) should manage boundaries around sharing personal information, and how they can control information that is shared about them.”

“Posting embarrassing photos of others on Facebook without consent is definitely tricky territory, but what constitutes embarrassing is slightly different for everyone, which makes this new issue even more of a minefield.”






Carr-Gregg urges change for mental health

Leading child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg has delivered a bleak outline of child mental health to the country’s Prime Minister in an open letter urging the PM to rethink funding and programs designed to deal with youth mental health.

Mr Carr-Gregg wrote that he and his child and adolescent psychologist colleagues were “more worried about our young people than ever before” in his blog-style open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull published by the Huffington Post Australia this week.

“I’ve never written to a Prime Minister before but am so worried about the number of young people I am seeing in my practice with anxiety, depression and substance abuse and I feel that, among the millions of things you have to do and are being told, this information may not be getting through to you.”

“… The latest ABS statistics tell us that the youth suicide rate for our boys is at its highest level in 10 years… every 18 hours in 2015, one young Australian male aged 15-29 died by suicide – a total of 488 lives lost that year.”

“…Suicide remains the biggest killer of young Australians and accounts for the deaths of more young people than car accidents. So, in the supposedly lucky country, the mental health of our young people as the year draws to an end is worse than it was for their parents at the same age.”

He wrote that the release of two noteworthy reports  this month “send shivers up my spine as they outline the prospect of an even bleaker future.”

One of the reports Mr Carr-Gregg was referring to was the annual Mission Australia Youth Survey which revealed mental health was the third national top issue worrying teens in Australia today.

Stress, school and study, and body image issues were the top three personal concerns of the more than 21,000 teens involved in the study.

“…Each year since the survey began, the proportion of young people indicating that they don’t have the skills, knowledge or strategies to deal with stress has increased.”

“Surely, this is a clarion call to parents and schools to do more in not just preparing young people for the economy but for life. There is a clear need for social and emotional competencies such as anger management, conflict resolution and problem solving to become part of the curriculum before it is too late,” he wrote.

He added  the Australian Psychological Society’s Compass for Life Wellbeing Survey also painted a bleak future for today’s youth, writing the report revealed youth were continuing to struggle building resilience – a key trait to maintaining a mentally healthy life as an adolescent and beyond.

Mental health worries grow for teens

Drugs and alcohol, discrimination and mental health are the top three issues concerning Australia, according to teens who took part in the latest annual Mission Australia Youth Survey released recently.

The survey, the largest of its kind, surveyed nearly 22,000 Australians aged 15-19 about their lives, including personal concerns and those they believed were national problems.

Mental health ranked in the top three of national concerns for the first time in the 15-year history of the annual survey.

Researchers found the percentage of young people nominating mental health as a top national concern had doubled in the past five years to more than 20 per cent.

Coping with stress, school and body image were the top three personal concerns of teens in the study, similar findings to those of previous years.

However, mental health issues were also increasingly seen as personal concerns for young people – a worrying trend according to Mission Australia.

Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeomans said the survey provided a window into the “thoughts, concerns and ambitions” of young people today.

Ms Yeomans said there needed to be a coordinated national approach to dealing with the concerns of teens across the country which involved key stakeholders working together for the benefit of young people.

“If young people are telling us that they think mental health is one of the top three concerns facing the nation, then we should sit up and pay attention and we should think about whether we’ve got the right responses in place.”

She said dismissing the issue and labelling it nothing more than teen angst could have awful consequences.

“I think we do that at our peril. It’s a high pressure time for a young person and it’s incumbent on us to help young people navigate that period of their lives safely.”

 “The old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ is key when we consider the issues young people face, especially in terms of mental health issues, as they commonly occur during this developmental period.”

With most teens saying they would seek help and guidance from family and friends, Ms Yeomans questioned whether there were enough support services provided for loved ones needing to help teens with mental health issues.

She said families and friends needed to be able to find and access vital support services for teens more easily – making the process of gaining professional help easier.

“Are we doing enough that these people, in trusted relationships, are able to provide supports as well, or are able to direct young people to the right supports?”