Tackling the Student Mental Health Crisis: Can Technology Be the Problem and the Solution?

Student Mental Health

Student wellness encompasses the overall health of a student, including their social, mental, physical, behavioral, and emotional health. Student wellness speaks to the way young people perceive themselves and their life in general. A student’s enjoyment and satisfaction with life are directly tied to their wellness, as is their academic performance. 

But sadly, many students are not doing well at all. 

Student mental health is in a state of emergency

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and Children’s Hospital Association have declared children’s mental health a national emergency. Specifically, they cite that depression and suicidal ideation among are at dangerously high levels.

Student mental health

What’s causing the decline in student mental health?

The issues affecting student mental health can be attributed to many factors, including the effects of the global pandemic. But many also blame our increased reliance on technology in everyday life. As this relates to students, the rise of technology presents both positive aspects and negative ones. Among those impacting students in a negative way are social media and online bullying.

How Social Media Use Impacts Student Wellness

With the advent of social media, more and more children and adolescents are comparing themselves negatively to the glamorous lives they see others displaying online. While these so-called perfect lives are often the result of camera filters and exaggerated claims, kids can easily conflate these images with real life. Even when adults compare themselves with what they’re seeing on social media, they come away with deflated self-esteem. So how well can we expect kids to cope? Not very well according to the experts.

A 2019 study of over 6,500 kids aged 12 to 15 found a direct correlation between how much time they spent on social media and their mental health. Kids using social media for more than three hours a day were at greater risk for mental health problems. Several additional studies have shown that the prolonged use of social media may produce depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, especially in children.

Cyberbullying: An Age-old Problem Takes on a New Form

The traditional forms of bullying now have an additional and equally harmful online component. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, or false content online about someone else. Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying happens when a perpetrator repeatedly picks on, harasses, intimidates, threatens, or humiliates a person with the intent to harm or isolate them

Cyberbullying can happen across devices, from phones to computers to tablets, as well as across a range of media, including:

  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok
  • Direct communications between students using mail, text messaging, instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chats
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit

Regardless of where or how the bullying happens, the result is the same: The targeted person is at greater risk of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or even feelings of worthlessness. Among the signs that a child may be a victim of cyberbullying are: 

  • Avoidance of friends
  • Refusal to participate in activities or attend school
  • Appearing quiet or withdrawn at school
  • Anger or dissatisfaction with a specific class or school overall
  • Falling grades
  • Mysterious illnesses and physical complaints without symptoms

So, what can schools do to combat these problems? The answer might surprise you.

How resource-strapped schools can improve student wellness

The traditional solution to student wellness is hiring more school mental health professionals. But while programs like the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) were put in place to help schools do just that, many schools are hard-pressed to hire enough school counselors and social workers to meet the demand. 

It’s estimated that the average school counselor in the U.S. is already looking after 464 students. When you’re responsible for that many kids, it’s nearly impossible to really know how each child is doing mentally and emotionally unless the students ask for help. And many will not. 

Hiring more staff isn’t the only possible solution, though. There’s another way to shine a light on students who are struggling: technology. 

Technology tools like school web filters are commonly used to keep students safe online and comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Student wellness monitoring takes student safety a step further by providing alerts when students are engaging in concerning or harmful online activities. 

Online activity monitoring shines a light on students who are struggling

The U.S. Department of Education defines online activity monitoring as technology that uses readily available student data to identify students at risk, diagnose the needs of at-risk students, and identify interventions that may help at-risk students. 

Online activity monitoring software is being used by thousands of districts and schools to help resource-strapped student services teams safeguard their students. By using artificial intelligence (AI), a monitoring solution is able to review students’ online activities to detect signs of student mental health issues, including:

  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide
  • Violence 

Should a student’s online activities show signs of concerning or harmful behavior, school staff are immediately alerted. By providing otherwise hidden signs of distress quickly and automatically, online monitoring software can help student support teams and school counselors know which students are at-risk so they can intervene and offer help — even save a student’s life.

student wellness

Student wellness monitoring provides even more tools for school counselors and social workers

Student wellness monitoring goes beyond online activity monitoring to help student services staff identify students who may be struggling. Securly Aware, a student wellness monitoring solution for K-12 schools, provides advanced tools and relies on sophisticated AI technology to give student services staff and school counselors real-time insight into students’ emotional wellbeing. 

Student wellness monitoring

If a student’s wellness level drops, Securly Aware automatically presents the student with a browser message that offers helpful resources. You’re able to customize the resources that are presented. These might include a link to schedule time with a counselor, a link to mental health resources, or the phone number for a hotline.

student’s wellness

To support cyberbullying prevention, Securly Aware can also prompt students to “think twice” before they send a hurtful message. By analyzing student posts as they’re being composed, Securly Aware can detect language that’s mean-spirited or threatening. The software will present a pop-up message to the student encouraging them to reconsider the message before it’s posted or sent.

Use technology for the good of your students

Certain aspects of technology have undoubtedly played a role in the mental health crisis among children and adolescents. But that doesn’t mean technology itself is all bad. In fact, technology is also helping student services teams prioritize student wellness, even when their resources are limited.

Want to learn more about how student wellness technology can help you support your students? Get the free guide.

Leave a Reply