‘Sadfishing’ affecting teenage mental wellbeing

Digital Awareness UK’s research into the digital wellbeing of teenagers has highlighted a new online trend that teenagers looking for support online are struggling with

A report* looking at the digital wellbeing of teenagers has highlighted a new online trend, ‘sadfishing’, that is affecting teenage mental wellbeing.

The report was commissioned by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and carried out by Digital Awareness UK (DAUK), as part of their Tech Control campaign.

The findings have been revealed today at HMC’s Autumn Conference in London, where nearly 300 independent school heads are in attendance.

It reveals that ‘sadfishing’ is a growing behavioural trend, which young people are finding hard to manage. Sadfishing describes when a social media poster makes exaggerated claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy and draw people onto their sites. DAUK found that young people with genuine mental health issues who seek support online were facing unfair and distressing criticism that they are jumping onto the same publicity bandwagon.

Keep communication lines open and work with your child’s school to ensure any education they receive in the classroom is backed up at home

Charlotte Robertson, co-founder of DAUK, said: “The key takeaway for parents is that it’s more important now than it ever has been to be interested and involved in your children’s digital lives.

“Ensure that, where possible, you are part of the solution to any problems or opportunities they may come across online and remember that whilst they will always play a crucial role, parental controls can only do so much and are not infallible.

“Keep communication lines open and work with your child’s school to ensure any education they receive in the classroom is backed up at home.”

Chris Jeffery, chair of the HMC Wellbeing Working Group and headmaster of Bootham School, added that it is “crucial” that educators and parents have regular insights into how young people are using their devices.

Other findings from the report:

– A growing amount of alarming online behaviour remains hidden from public view as victims are increasingly reluctant to confide in adults.

– The number of platforms on which people can anonymously bully or threaten others with virtually no chance of being identified is on the rise.

– Teens are also losing faith in the repeated but often unfulfilled pledges by technology companies to make the internet a significantly safer place.


More information is available on HMC’s website.

 

*DAUK spoke to more than 50,000 11 to 16 year olds in state and independent schools.