So much work has been done over the past year to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging us all to speak more openly about our struggles and prioritise wellbeing.
Yet while the taboos are being broken down from an adult perspective, for children the challenge of communicating their feelings about their mental health is starting at an increasingly young age.
One in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder, equivalent to roughly three children in every classroom, according to data from mental health charity Young Minds. In fact, half of all mental health problems manifest themselves by the age of 14.
Furthermore, almost one in four children and young people show some evidence of ill mental health, including anxiety and depression, according to Young Minds. The impact of poor mental health in childhood can have serious repercussions in later life, with as many as one in three adult mental health conditions relating directly to adverse childhood experiences.
Comic and entertainment franchise Beano Studios is collaborating with Young Minds on a content partnership that will communicate directly with primary school children about emotional literacy, recognising the signs of mental health problems and where to get help.
Content has been carefully co-created and grounded in scientific evidence, so we know it’s making a meaningful impact on a young person’s self-esteem and body confidence.
Sophie Galvani, Dove
To celebrate the comic’s 80th anniversary in July, Beano.com will be putting the focus on mental health, releasing specially themed videos, quizzes and ‘slow content’. Research shows that slow videos of optical illusions or things being ‘squished’ are watched by the Beano’s young audience when they want to decompress after school.
Beano Studios CMO Iain Sawbridge says the Beano brand’s positive outlook made the Young Minds partnership a good fit.
“We’re a super positive brand and we want to inspire kids with optimism and positivity, as well as a bit of mischief, so we looked for a charity partner who shared that philosophy and works to make kids’ lives happier,” he explains.
“I also think there’s something in the DNA of the Beano characters. They’re joyously and happily imperfect, and we feel strongly that kids should embrace that feeling.”
It is hard to escape the link increasingly being made between exposure to social media at a young age and the rise in children’s mental health problems. A YouGov study commissioned by Beano Studios found that more than half of parents believed the internet contributes to poor mental health in children under 12.
The report also found only a third of parents under 34 feel confident talking to their children about online safety, with just 44% saying they understand Instagram and 28% know how to navigate Snapchat.
Sawbridge acknowledges that social media contributes to the mental health issues affecting children, along with fears about the world at large and the added pressure being applied at school.
This makes understanding ‘Generation Alpha’, the collective name for children born from 2010 onwards, all the more crucial. Beano insight shows them to be a sensitive, thoughtful, inclusive and positive generation of children with a high degree of emotional literacy, which of course could still be improved upon.
Brands that have products, content or services aimed at Generation Alpha have a responsibility to find authentic ways to address their issues around self-esteem and mental health, says Sawbridge, who believes the best way to do this is through fun.
“We talk about popping pomposity as part of our mischievous rebellion and the partnership with Young Minds is about popping taboos,” he explains.
“Young Minds are really passionate that we don’t hold back. They say one of the things people struggle with on mental health is that everyone is treading on eggshells and you never really get into the proper meat of it. You don’t have fun so you end up with stuff that isn’t entertaining. It’s a very serious subject, but we want to create content that is fun, as well as helpful.”
Bossing your digital life
It is undeniable that children’s exposure to the online world is happening at a younger age. Data from Ofcom’s Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report, released in November, reveals 53% of those aged three to four go online for eight hours a week, with 48% of this young age group using YouTube.
Some 79% of children aged five to seven go online for nine hours a week, with as many 5% owning a smartphone. Furthermore 3% of these children have a social media profile, despite the age limit to join most social sites being 13. The exception is WhatsApp, which plans to raise the age limit to 16 in the EU ahead of the implementation of GDPR on 25 May.
In the eight to 11 age group, smartphone ownership shoots up to 39%, with 94% of children going online for more than 13 hours a week. Despite…