It has been argued that the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in schools could reduce a variety of issues that pupils within schools might experience, some of which include, anxiety levels, self esteem, anger, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
The need to improve the mental health of children and adolescents is increasingly being viewed as a priority in many countries around the world due to well documented health risks and the impact that mental health can have at a macro level upon economies and societies if interventions to address mental health issues are not applied early on.
Teaching and training school staff and lecturers in CBT techniques may therefore, have an important impact upon the psychological health of children and adolescents and address issues early on, thus helping some children and adolescents with their mental health, emotions and behaviours in later life.
Research on Child and Adolescent Psychological Health
According to research for the BBC School Report half of teenagers cope alone with their mental health. Research for the Children’s Commissioner for England suggested that more than a quarter of children referred for mental health assistance received no support.
Research has also shown that the number of schools in England seeking help for students from CAMHS has risen by more than a third in the last three years. The NSPCC’s childline service has also reported a 26% increase in the number of counselling sessions with children regarding mental health related problems over the past four years with many pupils only getting help when others have perceived they have reached a crisis point.
Statistics from freedom of information requests from the NHS have also shown that the number of referrals to mental health services by schools rose by almost 10,000 from 25,140 in 2014/15 to 34,757 in 2017/18, more than half of these were found to be for primary school children.
Recently there has been much discussion on the impact and extent of poor mental health within schools. some articles have reported that four in five teachers (78%) have seen one of their pupils struggling with a mental health problem with one in seven cases involving the pupil suffering to the extent that they are having thoughts of suicide or displaying suicidal behaviours. Many reports have shown that less than half of those affected were able to access CAMHS care that could have helped them in their recovery.
Four in ten (40%) teachers believe the need for care has grown in the past year, 52% believed family difficulties were contributing and 41% identified bullying and exam stress as causes of emerging mental health problems. It is often teachers who witness the effects of bullying, family difficulties and exam stress on pupils. Many teachers have called for urgent support to tackle these issues.
Introducing CBT lessons within schools could enable children and adolescents to manage their emotions and replace their anxious or/and distressing thoughts with more helpful ways of interpreting and thinking about events.
Research has shown that anxiety prevention programmes given to children aged 9-10 within schools would be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, according to research by The Lancet Psychiatry. It can also help pupils develop problem solving skills to cope with anxiety causing events and situations. Research has shown that anxiety is very prevalent in young people’s day-to-day lives as well as being a factor in increasing risks of poor mental health in later life.
Approaches to Introducing CBT Lessons Within Schools
CBT lessons could be introduced as part of the school curriculum. Another approach to introducing CBT lessons with schools could be training teachers and school staff to deliver CBT techniques and exercises.
One other approach might be to have professionals come into schools to talk to children and provide materials and online informational resources.
The benefits of CBT within the classroom.
CBT could help a child who may be suffering due to negative situations that have occurred in their lives and improve their ability to rationalise, cope with, focus and recall information. CBT would not just help children with issues they are already encountering but may also help them to preempt future difficulties.
CBT could help pupils to cope and respond differently to difficult issues that they face within their lives. If children can carry these techniques on to adulthood then this could help them to become well-rounded individuals.
Materials being widely accessible within schools would also give some children and adolescents an understanding on why they feel and behave in the way that they do, therefore helping them to deal with their emotions which may be upsetting and confusing to them. This may prevent thought patterns and emotions manifesting into future psychological difficulties.
Much research suggests that CBT could have a significant benefit to the psychological health of both children and adolescent pupils. The use of CBT techniques and exercises early on within a child or adolescents life could provide them with tools that could guide and help children and adolescents to cope better with events they perceive as stressful and confusing in both their current life and in their later life.
Due to the significant benefits of CBT upon young lives within society it could be argued that CBT should be an important contribution to the school curriculum within both primary and secondary schools.
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It has been argued that advancements in technology have improved the lives of millions of people, for example, Smartphones are an item that many people especially within the UK and US cannot envisage living without.
Many teenagers have grown up in a world that has become more and more reliant on digital technology. This reliance and incorporation of digital technologies into our lives has resulted in performing tasks, such as social networking to be second nature to us, to such an extent that social networking does not now necessarily refer to what we do but can instead refer to what we are.
Many people’s usage and the extent of their usage of social media platforms can result from social pressure, due to the high number of people using these platforms. These platforms will often be used to communicate, learn about and keep updated about events and share information. Therefore, many people will feel a strong need to be part of this online community in order to meet these practical and psychological needs, this feeling has frequently been termed as FOMO, which is the abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’. Therefore, people can feel that joining social media is a way to prevent them from missing out and connecting more with others around them.
Some have argued that this herd mentality and the need to be part of the group/community has an evolutionary basis, as for hundreds, if not thousands of years being part of and aligned with the group/community was often important for increasing an individual’s chances of survival.
Teenagers and Social Media Usage
What Effects do Social Media Interactions Have on Teenagers?
Studies have also found that teens between the age of 13-18 that receive a high number of likes on photos show increased activity in the reward centre of the brain, with many teens using the number of likes and comments they receive as a feedback mechanism on how well they have performed and their level of acceptance.
Productivity and Daily Life Tasks
Many studies have demonstrated that significant social media use can result in brain atrophy in grey matter areas of the brain, grey matter areas of the brain. Grey matter areas of the brain are the ‘sections’ where processing occurs, for example, planning, organising, impulse control and prioritising, if these areas of the brain become impaired than we can experience problems with getting things done and thus our productivity and possibly daily routines, can become negatively affected.
Many studies have also shown that those who receive a ‘like’ on a post can receive a rush from receiving this ‘like’, especially if the person is waiting in anticipation to see if their post will receive a ‘like’, this is due to experiencing a dopamine release, often being tied more to anticipation than to the actual reward , in this case, the anticipation of receiving a ‘like’ on their post.
Other studies have found that teens were influenced to like photos, regardless of content if these had received a high number of likes, demonstrating the heard mentality on these platforms, the use of social media interaction as a feedback mechanism – tied to self-worth and acceptance and the need to feel aligned with the group/community.
So how has meeting these human needs affected their growth and usage rate?
Growth of Social Media Usage and Platforms
Many of the social media platforms that people now use have grown exponentially, for example, social media platforms such as Facebook now have around 2.2 billion monthly active users. Twitter has around 335 million monthly users. The platform Snapchat reached 166 million in the first quarter of this month. The number of users of Instagram is set to surpass 111 million and the video sharing platform Youtube, now has over 2 billion users. This demonstrates the significant influence that these platforms have upon our day-to-day lives.
One study found that we spend around 50 minutes of time on social media platforms every day.
Social media usage from teenagers, according to previous research, is as follows, 66 percent use Facebook, 76 per cent use Instagram, 75 per cent use Snapchat, 47 per cent use Twitter and 30 per cent use Tumbler or Linkedin. Trends in teenage usage of social media has seen a move from Facebook to platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, however it is also worth noting that Instagram is owned by Facebook.
Most communications by teenagers on these platforms are carried out through text-messaging and for many adolescents, text-messaging is now more likely than person-to-person interactions.
Some of the reasons argued for the popularity and extensive use of these social networking platforms are there ability to meet certain fundamental human needs such as social support and belonging, these are often considered fundamental human needs as for much of human existence social support from the group/community was important for survival.
Another way in which social media is often utilised is to use this platform for self-expression, self-expression on these platforms would enable the person to form an identity and get feedback from the group/community, as feedback would be an important variable in formulating an online social identity.
Social Media Effects: Differences Between Adults and Adolescents
So what are the documented physical and psychological effects on people of using social media frequently?
Effects of Social Media on Mental Health.
There have been a number of studies and reports showing that high usage of social media can lead to mental illness, while in contrast there have been many other studies and reports that have shown that the effects of high social media usage on mental health are minimal.
Some studies that have focused on mental health have found the following mental health related issues regarding social media use these are anxiety, decreased self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, eating disorders and declining focus on work. Other studies argue that at the very least, high social media usage can lead to dysfunctional and negative impacts upon daily living. One study found a negative correlation between time spent on social media and negative body image feedback, it found that those who spent more time on social media had a much higher risk of reporting body image and eating concerns when compared to peers who who did not spend as much time on social media.
As was previously mentioned a frequent term used regarding social media use is FOMO, which is an abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’ and is defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”
This would suggest that FOMO could become a predicator or potential component of social media addiction and could potentially impact negatively upon a users daily functioning.
Other studies have found that young adults who spent a lot of time on social media were more likely to have sleep problems and develop symptoms of depression. Poor sleep has also been attributed to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and physical problems such as, but not limited to, a weaker immune system.
So what are the individual and societal advantages and disadvantages of frequently using these social media platforms?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Usage
Face-to-face social skills and social anxiety: Many adolescents are hardwired for socialisation, social media makes the ability to socialise very efficient, convenient and easy. People who suffer from social anxiety or feel that they have poor social skills could benefit from using social media as these people may avoid, and not have much, face-to-face contact with others, so social media platforms may give them an opportunity, which previously did not exist, to socialise with others.
People who suffer from social anxiety disorder may not experience the same levels of anxiety, when communicating on these platforms, as they do when they communicate face-to-face with others, therefore this may offer them an opportunity to communicate with others and express themselves through using this online platform.
Marginalised Groups: People within marginalised groups, such as people who experience mental health issues, could find that they are able to express themselves more often and have greater opportunity to communicate and interact with others through using these online platforms.
Communication Efficiency: Regardless of location people can instantly communicate with another using social media. It can also be used to communicate with several people at once by using Facebook Groups. This efficient way of communicating with others from any location at any time, enables people to share their thoughts, find out useful information and learn from others in a short space of time.
Good Causes: Social media groups or pages can be used to promote good causes and share information with others to spread awareness of societal issues and topics that are important to people or that may better their lives. Due to most social media platforms usage being free, other than paid ads, social media can be a cost-effective way to spread and share important messages with others.
New Information: The latest updates on an issue, news story or trend can be shared instantly on social media with others. This enables people to be quickly informed, updated and act quickly on events that they deem important.
On occasions where news channels may edit a news story to convey a certain message or interpretation, social media can be used to provide the truth about an event, for example, through someone uploading or live streaming the event directly from their Smartphone to a social media platform.
Helping People: Sometimes social media can be used to reach out and ask for help from others, examples of this could be when a person wants other people’s opinion on something before they proceed to take action or when someone in your community or near by have lost something such as a phone or have a lost a family pet such as a dog or someone has been missing for a period of time. These can often be posted to social media to ask for peoples help and assistance. One example of this is that the police will now often use social media as part of their strategy in appealing for and obtaining information about a crime or a suspected crime.
Education: People can use ‘Groups’ created on social media that are focused upon certain topics in order to not only socialise, but to educate themselves on a topic. People can educate themselves within these groups from having conversations with other group members and from reading articles and information posted within these groups.
Addiction: This can be described as the dark side of social media. Teenagers are found to be the most effected by social media addiction. Their extensive use of social media platforms to communicate and interact with others can result in them cutting themselves off from society. Social media addiction can also take time away from productive tasks or relationships with others within their households and daily lives, therefore affecting the persons close relationships, productivity and wellbeing.
Physical Health Issues: Excessive use of social media can result in people spending a lot of time sitting in the same position on their computer, this results in them not getting much exercise, such as walking and exercising. Social media can therefore distract people from exercising and doing other physical activities that can be beneficial for their physical health.
Negative body image problems:
Professional Reputation: Someone can impulsively post a comment or image on a social media platform that they later regret and which may impact upon their professional or personal reputation. Also, people can create false stories about others on social media platforms and have this shared with thousands of people. Businesses can also be affected by posts or comments which can harm their brand image/personality and reputation.
Cyberbullying: Many children and adolescents have been victims of cyberbullying. The relative ease in creating fake social media accounts has made this quite extensive. Threats, intimidation, rumours, slanders can be sent to hundreds if not thousands of people in a short space of time
Security Problems: Various security agencies have been found to have access to many people’s personal accounts. Many people have also had their accounts hacked into by hackers and by people attempting some type of fraud.
Less Face Time: Social skills require practice, it may be hard to build these social skills if people spend most of their time communicating and interacting online, rather than communicating face-to-face.
The previous research suggests that there are advantages and disadvantages to the widespread use of online social networking. There is a wealth of studies suggesting that there can be detrimental effects both psychologically and physically to excessive social media use. However, the key is learning to use social media in moderation through balancing communications online with face-to-face in-person communications and balancing social media usage with productive daily tasks. The wealth of information from previous research and reports published should help us to understand and have greater awareness on social media addiction and also to get a better understanding on when social media might be negatively affecting a person’s daily functioning, wellbeing and mental health.
I hope everyone enjoyed this article.
If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on this subject area then please leave these in the comments section below.