Children and teenagers can be particularly vulnerable when they use the internet. Risks include online bullying and depressive youth movements (sects and “death groups” which encourage suicide). A project in Dzerzhinsk, running during 2018, aimed to share experience and spread systems for preventing harm from social networks.
Activities included seminars on teaching methodology for school psychologists and teaching staff, on how to identify crisis situations in teenagers’ lives and how best to respond to them. Originally planned as one seminar, it was extended to a series of four because of the interest shown.
There were also training sessions for young people who volunteered to learn to teach their peers about safe, responsible internet use. This became an extension of the earlier School Mediation project in 2016/17. Older pupils who had trained as mediators, and become activists and leaders within their schools, seized on the idea of encouraging their peers to use the internet safely. They talk to younger pupils about dangerous websites, protecting their personal data, and how to avoid intrusive or unpleasant online chat.
The project also offered psychological consultations with parents and children, including via the centre’s “Telephone Hotline”. Over a 7 month period nearly 70 adults made contact regarding internet addiction and children’s psychological welfare.