Topics for this month:
Safer Internet Day – 8th February 2022
Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people, and to inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively.
Safer Internet Day 2022 is on 8th February and will be celebrated with the theme ‘All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online’. Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe.
Educators, social workers and other professionals working with children and young people play a key role in supporting children to learn about how to stay safe online. As well as supporting young people to stay safe online, staff also need to protect their own online reputation, particularly when using social networking sites.
Click here for information on recovering accounts
Advice about protecting your reputation while using social media and technology both personally and professionally can be found here: https://saferinternet.org.uk/guide-and-resource/teachers-and-school-staff/professional-reputation
Online Safety: Replika
Replika is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform that takes the form of an interactive, personalised chatbot. It learns how to ‘replicate’ genuine human interaction through conversations with the user who created them.
It was developed by AI start-up Luka in 2017, as a way to reconnect with a loved one who had passed away. Replika has reached over 10 million users worldwide after seeing a 35% increase during the global pandemic.
- Users communicate with an AI chatbot they create – not other human users
- Users must be 13 or older, and users under 18 must have parental consent
- Replika have stated they do not use human moderation
- Privacy features are limited to reporting bugs or responses to the developers
Replika, like many platforms that facilitate connection, saw a boost in user engagement during the COVID-19 lockdowns. But what makes Replika different from other connection-based platforms is its AI factor. Users are not interacting with other users – they are having an entirely private experience with their own personalised friend who is ‘always there for them, no matter what’.
Potential safeguarding risks to be aware of
- Age Verification – Users under 13 years of age are denied access to the app. However, this is easily avoided by putting in a different date of birth. There are no age verifications on the desktop version of the app and you can register using a fake email address.
- No moderation – The platform has said they do not use human moderators. Users can flag bugs or report issues with the AI to the support team, but vulnerable children or young people can still be exposed to inappropriate or suggestive interactions, or not receive appropriate help needed in a time of crisis.
- Inappropriate Content – Safeguarding test on the app describe graphic adult themes (i.e., wanting to ‘touch them inappropriately’) when unprompted, despite being in ‘Friend’ mode. If a young person is interested in Replika and searches it on TikTok or Reddit, they will be exposed to screenshots of others engaging in NSFW conversations with their Replikas.
- Persuasive Design – The novelty of this platform may increase a young person’s desire to try it. Once a user is on the platform, they are encouraged to chat with their Replika as much as possible to gain XP and coins, which can impact screen time habits. A young person may also want to spend money on subscriptions or bundles to enhance their relationship with their Replika.
- Mental Health – A vulnerable young person may use the chatbot to talk about their problems. As the chatbot is unable to offer genuine advice, a young person may feel even more isolated or unheard. It’s important young people aren’t discouraged from seeking support online. However, they should be encouraged to seek appropriate supports that engage with humans who can offer guidance and assistance when needed.
- Effect on relationships – In some cases, young people may not understand that they could develop an attachment to their Replika, while others may even consider it to be real. This might impact the development of real-life relationships and how children and young people relate to others.
7 Minute Briefings:
Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families. This 7-minute briefing provides a short but comprehensive overview of this potential area of abuse and the risks young people can face within their communities.
On the theme of unhealthy and abusive relationships, the 7-minute briefing introduces Coercive Control, what this means and the behaviours which may be seen.
Abuse in Relationships and My Safety Planning are leaflets , designed for young people but containing useful and accessible information for all, details what an abusive relationship may look like and what behaviours may be seen. Alongside this, My Safety Planning, provides and step by step plan to keeping safe in an abusive relationship, whilst designed for young people it could be used with anyone of any age. Both leaflets are a useful tool to be used directly with young people.
Mental health facts and statistics
How common are mental health problems?
- 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.
- 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England.
Who is most affected by mental health problems?
Anyone can get a mental health problem, at any stage of their lifetime, but we know from mental health data that some groups are more likely to get them than others.
- People who identify as LGBTIQ+. LGBTIQ+ people are between 2–3 times more likely than heterosexual people to report having a mental health problem in England.
- Black or Black British people. 23% of Black or Black British people will experience a common mental health problem. This compares to 17% of White British people.
- Young women aged 16-24, over a quarter (26%) of young women aged between 16–24 years old report having a common mental health problem. This compares to 17% of adults and this number has been going up during the pandemic.
- Around 40% of people in England who have overlapping problems including homelessness, substance misuse and contact with the criminal justice system in any given year also have a mental health problem. (This is sometimes called facing ‘multiple disadvantages.)
It is important to know that your identity does not give you mental health problems, causes can be very complicated, and higher risks for these groups are generally linked to several factors including:
- facing social inequality and disadvantage
- facing discrimination and social exclusion
- going through traumatic experiences and difficult life events
- differences in physical health.
- Lack of family support an opportunity
A person’s diagnosis may change several times, some complex conditions are measured by how many people will be given this diagnosis over the course of their lifetime, or in any given year.
- Mixed anxiety and depression: 8 in 100 people
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): 6 in 100 people
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 4 in 100 people
- Depression: 3 in 100 people
- Phobias: 2 in 100 people
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): 1 in 100 people
- Panic disorder: fewer than 1 in 100 people.
Estimates for these diagnoses can vary quite a lot, also, personality disorder and schizophrenia are controversial diagnoses. These labels can be stigmatising, and many people feel that they should not be used at all
For more information on free mental health support and advice please visit
https://www.mind.org.uk/ Or call the Mind info helpline on 0300 123 3393
Practical crisis tools are also available on the website to use right away, wherever you are. If you are feeling in crisis and need emergency help.
Preventing Suicide – Zero Suicide Alliance
The World Health Organisation estimates that 800,000 people died by suicide in 2016. Almost 6,000 of these deaths were in the UK.
Suicide is the leading single cause of death in men under 50. That means that more men die of suicide in the UK than heart disease, cancer, heart attack, or in road traffic accidents.
Men are 3 times for likely to take their own lives than women.
The rate of suicide of women in their early 20’s is the highest it has been for two decades. In 2016, 106 women under 30 died by suicide in the UK. In 2018, 1,604 women died by suicide.
Who can I tell if I am feeling suicidal?
It’s really brave to think about opening up and talking about thoughts of suicide. Who is in your life right now who you feel may be able to support you? Below are some ideas of some different people and sources of support you could turn to.
- Your parents or partner
- Your GP
- An Assessor or tutor
- A youth worker or counsellor
- Your friends or other family members
- Support services and helplines such as HOPELINEUK.
What do I say?
When reaching out for help, it can be scary to think about what to say or how to say it. Planning what you’re going to say and when you’re going to say it can help with this.
- Speak to an adviser at HOPELINEUK for advice
- There are also other websites that can help you plan and prepare to talk about your mental health with professionals. You can find out more on Places to turn for help
What help is available?
What help is available? It can be hard to imagine what type of help or support you can access if you are feeling suicidal. HOPELINEUK advisors can help you find support and explore options with you, as the help available can vary depending on where you live. Support might include:
- Talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy
- Community Mental Health support
- Crisis services and sanctuaries
- Peer support
- Self-help and online resources
- Local crisis lines and national helplines
For other services that you can contact for help and support see the Resources on Papyrus website.
Organisations and resources for support:
Help is at Hand:
A resource for people bereaved by suicide and other sudden, traumatic death in England and Wales
SOBS: Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide
Meeting the needs and help to overcome the isolation experienced by people over 18 who have been bereaved by suicide.
Papyrus: Prevention of Young Suicide
Provides information, training and support for young people to lead prevention.
A Guide to Journaling: different styles and how they can help your mental health (Virtual College)
It goes without saying, it’s important that we do everything we can to look after our mental health. And there are many ways to do that – exercise, therapy, medication, mindfulness techniques. But one tool, one of the easiest and cheapest we have, is the journal.
The idea of journaling isn’t something new. For centuries journaling has been used for things such as capturing dreams, writing poetry and documenting life experiences. In more recent times, journaling has been viewed by psychologists as a great way of supporting mental health problems including issues such as, anxiety, depression, stress and PTSD, as well as holding many other benefits.
But where do you start? To help, Virtual College has produced “A Guide to Journaling: different styles and how they can help your mental health” to see how you can incorporate journaling into your life.
New campaign launch reveals 6 major health benefits to losing weight
A new Better Health marketing campaign was launched at the beginning of January 2022 to help people prevent risks of developing serious illness and help reduce the risk of being hospitalised with COVID-19.
Better Health is working in partnership with 15 weight management and physical activity partners who are providing both free and discounted offers and the website will also signpost to local weight management support.
From reducing the risk of serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and up to 12 types of cancer, to lowering the chances of being hospitalised with COVID-19, the multimedia campaign highlights the serious health conditions which could be prevented by losing excess weight and offers free support and guidance to achieve this goal.
It is estimated that over 3 in 5 adults are at an increased risk from serious diseases as a result of being overweight. Losing just 5% of body weight can seriously reduce the chance of heart disease and could make all the difference in preventing treatable heart conditions.
The new campaign highlights 6 benefits that could have a lasting impact on a person’s health by being a healthier weight:
- Decreased risk of common cancers (colon, liver, pancreas, kidney)
- Lowered risk of increased blood pressure
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Less risk of developing diabetes
- Less strain from chronic back and joint pain
- Decreased risk of being hospitalised or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19
For more information about the campaign please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-campaign-launch-reveals-six-major-health-benefits-to-losing-weight?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_source=acbe3abc-c91a-4ecf-bae8-d6fc42d50c19&utm_content=daily
To visit the ‘Better Health’ website please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/