With almost 90 per cent of young people believing that social media is driving harmful behaviour, a new series of virtual reality (VR) films has been developed to help explore the online dangers they face.
Four new films have been created by Cornerstone VR, part of the Antser Group, to raise awareness of young people’s activity online and the impact this can have on their personal safety and mental health.
In a survey conducted at the end of last year by YoungMinds, it was reported that 34 per cent of young people wanted to leave social media weekly but felt unable to do so, while more than a fifth (22 per cent) are shown distressing content, based on their browsing history, at least once a week.
The Royal Society for Public Health found that using Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness among 14-24-year-olds.
Serena Hadi, head of operations and practice at Cornerstone, said: “It’s no secret that social media is now an inescapable presence in the everyday lives of so many of us, especially among young people.
“It yields huge power and there are many people using their influence online to target vulnerable children and young people. When we started doing our research, we were really surprised by the methods that these individuals were using.”
Cornerstone VR’s latest films were written and scripted after several focus groups with professionals working with children in social care and the education sector, including the teams at Inspirations – providers of children’s residential care homes – and the London Borough of Redbridge, as well as conversations with young people and consultations with social media experts.
The first is an introduction to social media, showing how it fits into the day in the life of a young person, such as WhatsApp conversations with family members to receiving unsolicited messages from strangers; films two and three show how young people can be persuaded to meet someone in real life; and the fourth focuses on the decline of a young person’s mental health due to social media.
Serena said: “Our new VR content is so important right now because it highlights the impact social media can have on both the physical and mental wellbeing and safety of children and young people. It was really important to us not to retread on old ground. We wanted to make the films as realistic and informative as possible to highlight the things that we don’t always see as adults.”
Parminder Basra, director of operations at Inspirations, said: “When asked if we had young people who would like to support Cornerstone’s new videos we were keen to do so as we understand the risk online social media has on young impressionable minds. Before the internet, the risk for children from strangers was mainly outside the home but this is no longer the case. We need to do all we can to educate and raise awareness to help young minds navigate their first experience of social media and throughout their childhood to equip them with skills to manage the risks.”
As one of the UK’s leading providers of technological solutions, Cornerstone VR is already used by public and private organisations nationwide to raise awareness of early life trauma, domestic abuse, child criminal exploitation (CCE) and child sexual exploitation (CSE).
For more information about Cornerstone VR, click here.