How can children make use of online support communities?

Our expert panel discusses the benefits of online communities in supporting children and young people.

Sajda Mughal OBE

CEO of JAN Trust, Campaigner and Consultant
Expert Website

Online support communities can be a great resource for children to broaden their horizons, and both seek advice on how to improve their lives and provide suggestions to others on facing personal struggles.

When participating in such groups, children should try to be as tolerant as possible and aware that they may not find a definitive solution that completely eliminates the problem. That said, children must be vigilant against some people in these online communities not being who they seem, as these people will seek to take advantage of the vulnerable and give counterintuitive advice or try to manipulate children to their cause. Anyone that tries to obtain personal information or spread negative views should be avoided and approached with caution.

Catherine Knibbs

Child Trauma Psychotherapist (Cybertrauma)
Expert Website

Sometimes it can be difficult for children to speak directly to their parents. They may be embarrassed, think they won’t ‘get it’ and, of course, due to their age, may well be going through a stage of development where speaking to their peers, an older friend or sibling is more likely.

When young people are using the online space, they can often find supportive spaces where they can converse with others who understand their position. For example, a group might exist for children who have lost a parent and in there, they can find other children and young people who can help them explore their feelings.

It is important that our young people have spaces they can communicate with others like this, and where empathy and connection provide a relational need that can help them manage their emotional processes. As always, be aware that people can speak to almost anyone else online and so managing the fine line between supporting them in seeking support and respecting this, versus intrusion, or giving them absolute freedom is a challenge for many of the parents I work with.
Leave the conversation door open for them to approach you and, you never know, they might just do that.

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