Youth perspectives on being online

Young people love being online, and communications technology plays a strong role in their lives. We asked young people to share their thoughts on the role of technology in their lives. See what they had to say about dealing with difficult situations, and their experiences of online help seeking. Read their advice on using technology to support young people.

This will help you to:

  • understand how young people use technology
  • understand how young people would like to be supported
  • get ideas for supporting young people creatively
Adult man showing computer to young adult

What does technology mean to you?

Technology is, to me, a useful tool to improve my life but it doesn't complete my life… In day-to-day life, I go out, go to uni, go to work and all of the other normal things. In order to do my uni work effectively, I need access to the internet to look up things that aren't yet published in books or to find out where I can get the book I do need. In order to catch up with my friends, I tend to send them an SMS or post a message on their Facebook wall. If I couldn't contact them in either of these ways, it'd be harder to stay in touch as we're all so infrequently home. - Sam

Technology is the way I stay connected with people in my life (except my grandparents, lol). It means freedom and connection in the sense that I can be connected from anywhere, anytime to anyone. It also makes life so much easier and means I have access to an answer to any question I might ever want to know. - Meke 

For me, technology is a form of communication that can be used anywhere at any time. It is a way of connecting people from across the globe together, so even if distance separates us, we are still able to be close. - Becks

Technology is a strange term because everyone associates it with computers and mobiles, when we've been technologically advancing our knowledge for centuries if not millenia. The only difference with these new technologies is that some people haven't grown up with them so they seem foreign, but they're no different to the telephone or the radio. So really all it means to me is a different way of communicating.  - Kris

 

How do you deal with difficult situations?

When I find something upsets me, it's normally best solved by having a rant to a friend.  I normally feel quite fine after that.  If I'm going through a really tough patch, I'll write journal entries as once the issue is out of my system and onto some paper.  I find that it all seems much easier to fix once I've thought about it that much.  If even that isn't enough, then reading the stories of ReachOut.com and working my way through the factsheets seems to do the trick. - Sam

I guess each situation is different but in another way they're all the same. I try to take everything head on with an open mind, giving enough time to consider all possible solutions and make the right choice. Back in reality I normally freak out, ignore it for as long as possible until there seems to be only one way out and then deal with the consequences later. Yeah, I'm still not very good at dealing with those tough situations, I know the theory, it's the practical component that's the hard part. - Kris 

By putting on my red shoes, tapping them together three times and saying 'there's no place like home'. Or not. It depends on the situation as to how I would deal with it; there is no 'one size fits all' option when it comes to dealing with difficult situations. But the common themes in my actions quite often involve some alone time (which can also include meditation), chilling out to music, or talking to close friends about what my situation is, how I think how I should deal with it and seek their opinion on whether they agree with me or not. - Chris


What were your experiences with help seeking through technology?

I think online chats and instant messaging were probably the first places I went when I felt down.  Being able to chat to other young people but also having that security of anonymity meant that you could talk about anything. When I went to find more formal help I was lucky, ReachOut.com was one of the first places I found and I've never looked back. - Kris

I find it much easier to talk about what's really going on in writing. Being able to email my treatment team before a session is quick, easy and saves me struggling to articulate what's actually going on for me. Phone consultations were helpful and made a huge difference to my treatment when I was in a different state to my treatment team, and phone consultations now can help when I can't make an appointment, or can't get into an appointment because it means I can connect with my treatment team if I can't actually make it in to see them. They also prevent my treatment team from worrying in the instance they can't get hold of me. - Noelle

A lot of the help-seeking I've done online has been to support others through their tough times, whether that be linking them to something like a fact sheet containing information on what someone in distress has needed to know, or doing research to find exactly where people should go to next. The internet has also been a great tool to assist others post-resolution for any issue that someone has experienced, a 'final step' if you will; you've gone online to find the initial answers, sought and completed the necessary actions to resolve an issue(s), and then gone back to utilizing these online resources in a 'post-op' type style ensuring that someone has received all of the help they need and that they're better off for it. - Chris

Before I had the courage to talk to my GP, I accessed Kids Help Line via their email and web counselling services, and eventually by phone. The support I received from my counsellor there was vital in building my confidence enough to reach out to my GP. - Helen

 

What advice would you give professionals?

Utilise technology in a way that's going to have its benefits by it being there, and use it to complement your other means of support… If you're looking to get in touch with a patient after you've seen them, send them an e-mail and see how they're doing. If you know that a young person is going to experience a tough time because of an upcoming event, send them a text message with something along the lines of 'this may happen to you in the future because of this reason, this is what you can do about as it happens'. Technology gives you the capabilities of being proactive when offering support. - Chris

I don't think the use of technology should replace face to face contact but I think it is a great asset and can really enhance it! I also think it is possible to 'do' therapy via the internet or phone if someone is unable to attend standard services for whatever reason… One way to use emails in practice is to invite people to send the emails between sessions, knowing that you will not read them until the actual session (so it's not cutting into your time - but is part of the session). The email can highlight patterns and be a starting point for conversations that otherwise may never have happened. - Meke

If you are working with young people who are geographically isolated, or might have difficulty getting out of the house (e.g. some YP with disabilities, terminal illness or chronic pain or young carers) use of technology such as a combination or phone, email and web counselling might be possible. It depends on the phone if they are worried about someone listening in, which is why the internet is a good option. - Meke

Go for it! But ensure that you know how to use it properly so you're not spending half the session fluffing around and not *dealing*. Be aware that some mental illness can be sneaky and hide behind technology and that technological intervention may never be able to replace face to face intervention. However, I think if someone doesn't have a diagnosable mental illness, but maybe is having issues with negative thinking, online contact can be a whole lot easier, less stressful (let us not forget the serious amount of stigma mental health issues/thinking dilemmas still have around them) and more convenient. - Noelle

Be open to using technology in your practice. We young people live in a world of technology, so we know our stuff. If you are unsure about how to use something, let us know, because we would be more than happy to help you understand it. Especially if we know that it is going to be used in supporting other young people. We like to help as it gives us a voice in our treatment plans. - Becks

 

Find out more

Did you find this article helpful?
Thanks for your rating.