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Five ways to good mental wellbeing – through a digital lens

3 minutes read

- Written by Yubo Team

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Five ways to good mental wellbeing – through a digital lens

Dr Richard Graham is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist and a member of the Yubo Safety Board. He has worked in digital health and online safety for more than a decade and is recognized as a digital health pioneer. He is Clinical Director of stem4, the UK’s leading digital mental health charity for children and young people, a member of the UK Council for Internet Safety and Ofcom’s Making Sense of Media Advisory Panel, and Online Harms Lead for the Child and Adolescent Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

In our 2023 blog about The state of online safety, we looked briefly at the impact of the digital world on young people’s wellbeing. In support of various mental health awareness campaigns around the world that took place in May, we’ve taken a deeper dive into this topic, using the established ‘Five ways to good mental wellbeing’ framework and with insights from Yubo Safety Board member Dr Richard Graham. We hope these tips will help the Yubo community all year round. 

1. Connect with other people

More than 80 million people around the world use Yubo, including many young people, so it’s a great place to make new friends and build a support network. As Richard says, “Connecting with others and creating a sense of belonging is an important goal in a teenager’s development. Nowadays, this often happens online as young people’s social lives are increasingly embedded in digital technology.”

To promote good mental health, social platforms should be inclusive and respectful and users should be able to control what they see and do. Unlike many other apps and websites, what happens on Yubo isn’t decided by algorithms based on users’ previous engagement and there isn’t a focus on influencers and ‘likes’. There is also less pressure for members of the Yubo community to look or portray themselves a certain way or to ‘perform’ for an audience.

“For young people, it’s important they feel able to affect what’s going on around them,” comments Richard. “If your time online feels like it’s being controlled by algorithms or professional content creators, you start to feel powerless. But if you’re in control and you’re building strong friendships, digital spaces can have a very positive impact. You can be yourself.”

2. Be physically active

When you work out, your body releases ‘feel good’ hormones. In fact, regular physical activity is known to lower stress, increase self-esteem, reduce the risk of depression, improve sleep and help with other mental health conditions. 

With the theme of the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 being ‘Moving more for our mental health’, Richard encourages young people to strike a balance between the time they spend online and any physical activities they enjoy.

“Seize every opportunity to move,” he says. “Even the shortest bursts of activity are very powerful for your physical and mental wellbeing and, as your energy levels increase, you can increase the amount of exercise you do.”

But it’s also interesting to look at the term ‘active’ in relation to the online world. Active users of social media are those who regularly share, comment and post whereas passive users simply follow people, ‘like’ posts and read information online.

“On Yubo, you can take an active role in livestreams, where you connect with a small group of friends, rather than passively ‘liking’ posts,” notes Richard. “And with less of a focus on influencers, you can feel more confident about creating and connecting and not worry about being judged.”

3. Learn new skills

The main skill that young people need to maintain healthy digital spaces is ‘critical thinking’ – in other words, having the ability to question and evaluate what they see online. 

This includes knowing how to identify disinformation and misinformation and recognising predatory and exploitative behavior online. One question that is always worth asking, is why you might want to believe something is true. Other skills include knowing how to report something and being able to use in-app tools to stay safer. 

With the increase in the use of Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, young people must also understand that even the most realistic digital content might not be real (e.g. deep fakes) and that inappropriate content and behavior, such as bullying, could be the result of AI chatbots. 

“There are clear risks that [Generative AI] technology could be used by bad actors, or inadvertently cause harm or society-wide disruptions at the cost of children’s wellbeing and future prospects,” said a recent Unicef article, whilst Thorn notes that the shift to Generative AI makes the call for ‘safety by design’ even more urgent.

As the Clinical Director of stem4, the UK’s leading digital mental health charity for children and young people, Richard helps professionals working in healthcare, social care and the youth sector to reduce the impact of online harms through ‘Media Literacy and Mental Health’ webinars.

“One of the things everyone needs to understand is where online risks might become harms in terms of young people’s mental health,” he comments. “What happens when someone is bullied or sexually exploited online? What’s the impact of websites that promote self-harm or eating disorders? How might the views of celebrities and other influencers affect someone? It’s essential that young people develop strong media literacy and critical thinking skills so they can successfully navigate their digital spaces.”

Richard notes that many young people want one person – perhaps a parent or teacher – who can help them make sense of what’s going on and support them to become more resilient. In many cases, it will be friends that young people turn to first. As a study by the University of East Anglia shows, digital resilience needs to be a “collective endeavour” that involves the young person, their family and their school, as well as policymakers, governments and technology companies.

4. Give to others

“Giving to others can really improve your own mental health but it doesn’t have to be like a gift,” says Richard. 

You could give your time or attention to someone who feels lonely, share a playlist that you think someone might enjoy, or do some chores at home. Or you could simply commit to prioritising kindness and thoughtfulness online. 

Here at Yubo, we have zero tolerance for bullying, hate speech and other harmful behaviors and we encourage every member of our community to respect their peers. It’s important that young people consider the impact of their actions – for example, if you take a photo of someone and share it online without their permission, how might it make that person feel?

With Nominet’s Digital Youth Index identifying the rise in ‘conscious connectors’, Richard also notes that one of the ways Yubo users can support their peers is by not pressuring them to be online all the time. As he says, “Some people need to be careful about the amount of data they use – perhaps because they have a limited data plan or they share their device with other family members. It’s important to respect this.” 

Yubo is also a safe space for young people to meet like-minded people, get involved in the causes they care about, such as climate change and systemic racism, and have their voices heard. It’s easy to add a hashtag or emoji to your Yubo profile to show your support for the causes that matter to you and we often run campaigns in support of activists, charities and NGOs.

5. Pay attention to the present moment

Being aware of your own thoughts and feelings and paying attention to the world around you can help you to enjoy life more. So, it’s important to take regular time out from digital devices and, ideally, to spend time in green and blue spaces, which can really boost your mental health.

The good news is that young people understand how social media might affect their mental health. Indeed, a study by Ofcom shows that they choose to take regular breaks from their favorite apps (or even delete them) and often seek out online content and services to improve their mood and manage any feelings of anxiety. 

“Everything and everyone went online during the COVID-19 pandemic – short form video content was particularly popular and became a substitute for social connections,” adds Richard. “It took a while for young people to get out of their lockdown habits but it’s reassuring that they are now setting boundaries between their digital spaces and what they need or want to do offline.”

To help you incorporate the five ways to good mental wellbeing in your daily life, how about starting with these five simple challenges?

1. Join a club, team or online community where you can meet new people

2. Block out 30 minutes a day to go for a walk, run or bike ride

3. Learn a little about Generative AI (you might find this BBC article helpful)

4. Check in with a friend (online or IRL) to see how they’re doing 

5. Put your devices down at least an hour before you go to bed

Check out stem4's apps for young people, such as Move Mood, which helps you to set healthy goals, and stem4’s resources for parents and carers.

Other Yubo blogs

How to improve your wellbeing online

Sextortion: 7 things you should know

Stay fresh and safe: Gen Z tips for navigating the social media jungle

Student activism: Ways to get involved in your community

Yubo x World Mental Health Day

Mental health support organizations

Beyond Blue (Australia) 

Fil Santé Jeunes (France)

stem4 (UK)

Kids Help Phone (Canada)


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