Grappling with the Gifts & Challenges of the Online World

United Kingdom

Vanessa Hemp, clinical psychologist with a special interest in working with teenagers and children, offers a talk on how to think about online activities when working with teens and children. Online activities include social media, gaming, use of apps and the Internet. 

The online world has changed society in a number of ways, with an impact on the emotional and psychological development of young children. Use of the Internet is inevitable, and may facilitate social engagement and identity development for young people. Vanessa outlines the gifts and challenges in a balanced way, so that parents and health professionals do not demonise the Internet, but are equipped with the tools to recognise and help teens manage risks. 

Vanessa considers adolescent brain development, including the role of the limbic system and dopamine, and how these factors can facilitate exploration and engagement, but also increase the risks of impulsive behaviours, placing teens at risk. 

Vanessa then outlines some of the risks which are important to be aware of, including cyber-bullying & harassment, ‘sexting’, privacy concerns, scamming & predators, Internet addiction and problematic use. Vanessa highlights the importance of being aware that once something is in the public domain, it cannot be controlled, and can be disseminated. Teens need to be aware of this so that they can protect themselves from sharing compromising information. Vanessa also looks at privacy & security measures which can be taken, to protect teens from the impact of sexual predators or scams. Vanessa looks at the psychological impact of social media and the image of reality that is portrayed, which can impact on teens’ self-esteem. She provides tools to help professionals guide parents and teens to mediate the impact of social media. Vanessa looks at the importance of balance in terms of the range of activities teens engage in. She considers Internet addiction and how this is often co-morbid with other Axis I or interpersonal difficulties. Vanessa also considers the impact of the Internet on sleep and how to manage this. 

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