For the last year, I have been involved with the Young Scot 5Rights Youth Commission – a project funded by the Scottish Government and supported by Young Scot to investigate and come up with a report on young people’s online rights. 5Rights is a framework developed by Baroness Beeban Kidron, and the five rights we focus on are:
- Right to Remove
- Right to Know
- Right to Safety and Support
- Right to Informed and Conscious Use
- Right to Digital Literacy
You can find out more about each of the 5Rights here.
As a member of the Youth Commission, I have been involved in researching and collecting evidence on the effects of technology and social media on the mental health of young people. As someone who has suffered from mental illness partially due to technology use, this is an issue close to my heart. In January, four of us from the commission went to London to meet with Twitter and Facebook to have a discussion on what they are doing about the 5Rights. We talked a lot about digital dependency amongst young people, and how this has an impact on their mental health – for example, on how it is difficult to “switch off”. We also talked about the peer pressure young people face to be constantly available online, and how this can lead to anxiety and depression.
We have also spoken to a number of charities and organisations who focus on similar issues. One of these was See Me Scotland, who we spoke to regarding the impact of technology on mental health, as well as Respect Me about bullying online, Aye Mind about the positive use of technology on our mental health and The Reward Foundation about addiction to technology partially caused by internet pornography. We have incorporated this information into our report, which will be published soon.
Despite my own negative experience with technology and mental health, I am a firm believer that technology can be used for positive mental wellbeing too. I have made many friends through social media, and I write regularly for various publications about my own experiences of mental illness. During the time of the project I have had my own issues, including a particularly bad depressive episode, which meant I had to take a step back from the Youth Commission for a number of months. However, having bounced back from that, I am even more passionate about campaigning for mental health awareness, especially in regards to technology.
I hope that because of the hard work the Youth Commission have put in, the next generations of children and young people can have a positive and healthy online experience.
By Isla Whateley, Young Scot 5Rights Youth Commissioner