A headline hit the newspapers a few months back, slamming a girl’s parents for being downstairs without a clue, while their daughter left a suicide note on social media. She then took her young life.
I was enraged by it. For a start, how would such a headline support the grieving family when they had just lost the most precious person in their world and secondly, it hit too close to home.
My son was 15 when he made his first attempt on his life. It was two weeks before Christmas and he had bought a bag of paracetamol and ibuprofen, allegedly, from someone at school for £5.
He was at his dads and sat upstairs in his bedroom when he chose to take handfuls of them. Neither his dad or I had a clue that he was so depressed or anxious.
It was Social Media that saved his life. He told a friend via a platform what he had done and his friend shared it with another friend, who lived around the corner. This friend flew to the house and raised the alarm. My son was taken straight to hospital, and when well enough assessed by the mental health team. It was then we were able to see how poorly he was and support him.
We read so much in the news about the negative effects of Social Media and while there have been times that I have cursed it, I am also grateful that my son was able to communicate with someone he trusted through it. He didn’t tell either his dad or I, because he loves us and didn’t want to upset us. The minds of the young.
I attended a social media training session with Alex McCann from Altrincham HQ. He said something that really resonated with me, “it isn’t social media that’s bad, it’s the way people choose to use it that is good or bad”.
We, as parents, and society, can be too quick to blame social media for cyber bullying, etc. without looking at the bigger picture.
Why do children have the need to ridicule and use hurtful and offensive words to others? Maybe reading some posts on Facebook from adults will provide the answer to that.
Why do children and young people feel the need to communicate via phones and technology? Maybe a journey on the rush hour tram will provide an insight to that.
Technology and social media are usually the first thing that we as adults turn to when we need advice, be it a medical concern, a recommendation, news report etc. Why would we expect it to be any different for children and young people?
We have been lucky enough to get through the worst of this experience and my son is in a much better place. What advice would I give?
As a parent or carer be alert to changes in mood, secretive conversations, hiding phones, tablets etc.
Try to keep a healthy balance of family activities, being able to listen to your children and keeping an open dialogue is so important. If their behaviour changes, take it seriously and ask if they want your help.
Emma, Calm Connections
Calm Connections is a Community Interest Company based in Greater Manchester. We offer early intervention support to families, working with the whole family to strengthen their relationships. We are a team of experienced and qualified practitioners who share our skills and knowledge through workshops, programmes, one-t0-one support and residential retreats. We work across Greater Manchester, supporting families to strengthen their relationships and encourage more harmony between all family members. All profits are used to give low income families access our services.