Within the news this week, the Government announced ‘New Relationship and Health Education in Schools’. They released draft guidance with a purpose to prepare young people for life in the ‘modern world’.
What is the ‘modern world’ exactly & how is this affecting the health of young people?
Well, the guidance was last updated in the year 2000, with the new guidance expected to be in force by 2020. There have been significant changes affecting young people’s health and wellbeing in the last 18/20 years. Mobile phones probably being the most noteworthy – the 20th century addiction. Mobile phones in 2000 would typically be a Nokia “brick” or a flip phone, none of the touch screen illusionary we have nowadays. Phone activity for young people was best met either by playing snake or sending each other songs via Bluetooth. Since then, social media was born. Facebook in 2004, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2012, all AFTER the last guidance was published. With reports of 12-15 year olds spending 18 hours a week on their mobile phones, this is bound to be having an impact on young people in some way. I’ve spoke before of the impact of the social-networking world in my post ‘Time for a digital detox?’ including the implications on both physical and mental health. Although, it is important to remember social media can be used as a healthy network (when used appropriately).
With technological advances, also comes the issue of cyberbullying. Research published just 3 months ago found that one third of young people claim to be affected by this. Worryingly, cyberbullying increases the risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation. This was found for both the victims and the perpetrators. Leader of the study Dr Ann John argued “Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils” highlighting further the importance of prevention in schools.
‘Sexting’ is another issue of today’s social age. This includes sharing sexual, naked or semi-naked images/videos or sexually explicit messages. In young people language this is more often referred to “nudes” or “dirties”. Not many young people realise that taking such imagery, saving it, or passing it on, even of themselves is illegal. This may appear to be harmless, however the NSPCC shared the risks associated with taking and sharing such images. These include having no control over how images are passed onto others, these becoming in the public domain, the risk of exploitation, bullying and emotional distress. Sexting can also have an impact on their relationships with others, earlier this year The Independent report family scientist and research lead Adam Galovan to say “the sexters are focusing more on the sexual part of their relationship and may be neglecting other areas.”
What’s expected from the new guidance?
The aim of the guidance is to help protect and prepare young people from how the modern day may affect them. The main topics they will focus on include teaching children about how to practice good physical and mental health, how to stay safe online and offline, and the importance of healthy relationships including consent. This has come from a national call for evidence earlier this year. It’s hard to believe that it has taken 18 years for this to be reviewed, and that it wasn’t already compulsory for ALL students to study.
Research has also found that healthy pupils have an increased likelihood of better academic performance, so the benefits are wider than just that of health.
The guidance will now be subject to a further 12-week consultation focusing on exactly how these topics will be delivered to young people. So watch this space…
Definitely something I think should be included in ‘The Happy News’ (well it made me happy at least).
It is important to remember that this role isn’t just down to our school educators. Parents/guardians, organisations who come into contact with young people and the general population all have a social responsibility to ensure young people are better protected. That being said, this is a big step in the right direction to ensure every young person is educated to protect their own health and well-being!