Report on the 2022 RCPsych Wales National Mental Health Debate for Primary Schools: Does technology improve your mental health?
21 February, 2022
It was a pleasure to attend the online RCPsych Wales National Mental Health Debate for Primary Schools organised by Oliver John and Antonia Fabian, RCPsych Wales and TEC Cymru. Submissions were invited from primary schools across Wales, for and against the motion: Does technology improve your mental health?
The event started with some poignant thoughts from the Welsh Children’s Poet Laureate Connor Allen and from Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive of Literature Wales focusing on how literature and debate can be used to promote health and wellbeing and encourage curiosity in young people.
Before we heard the motions a poll of attendees showed that 61% felt that technology does improve your mental health, so how did the motions put forward by children from across Wales influence this?
Entries were passionately delivered with pupils quoting stats and figures from recent research to support their motions. Pupils for the motion argued that the benefits of technology far outweigh the risks. Pupils spoke about how invaluable technology has been during the pandemic, making it possible for education to continue and for people to stay in touch and socialise online. Pupils told us about using apps for education, to promote health and well-being and increase your fitness levels. Pupils felt that technology gave us so many ways to relax and connect with others, they mentioned video streaming and gaming in particular as great ways to enjoy yourself online. Pupils supporting the motion posed the question to the audience: Can you really imagine a world without technology?
Pupils submitting entries against the motion spoke about the damaging effects technology can have on our mental and physical health and our relationships. Pupils quoted studies linking screen time to depression, headaches and poor sleep. Pupils spoke about the dangers of cyberbullying, catfishing and the effects of seeing lots of negative online content on your mental health and self-image. Pupils questioned if technology was violating young people’s right to privacy and the effect this had on young people not been able to “disconnect”. One pupil told us incredulously that you don’t need a fitness app to enjoy a walk outside and other pupils also felt that technology meant that children missed out on real-world experiences.
After the motions for and against we heard from Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive of Literature Wales and Journalist Melanie Owen, the spoke about the need to help young people stay safe while using technology but also to encourage young people to reap the benefits. Mike Tate, Director of Education, Cardiff Council closed the debate by commenting that supporting young people to develop the ability to listen and reason was so important as it equipped young people with the power to make up their own mind - an invaluable skill online and off!
All the pupils who took part were highly commended, best speakers were picked and winning schools were announced, looking at Twitter after there were some very proud pupils and educators celebrating taking part in the debate.
After the debate 76% of attendees felt that technology does improve your mental health, having heard the arguments both for and against I’m not sure there is a clear victor, but certainly the pupils are right when they say technology is here to stay and we need to focus on equipping our young people to navigate this ever-changing environment safely to protect their current and future wellbeing. I look forward to next year’s debate…