– Vice Chair of Lifelink’s board of directors, Janice Collins shares her thoughts on young people and social media.

I’m no old fogey (well maybe just a bit) but I’m happier than a host of happy emoijis that I didn’t have to spend my teens in selfie/celebrity/social media obsessed society.

When I was growing up, an apple and blackberry were lunchbox items. Trolls were cute wee dolls with luminous locks and cheeky grins. Birds tweeted. And if you had a follower, you were a cult leader or you reported it to the police.

But now, if someone has the wrong smartphone or set of gel nails, they can be pinterested and pilloried in real time.

You might think, “so what if young people get stressed out about how they look, who their friends are and who likes them, we had that too”.

Well, yes we did, but it wasn’t on display to the world. If you said or did something stupid (i.e. anything outside the norm) it barely lasted until the bell rang and you went home, leaving the bullies behind.

When our children look at us, bewildered by our reactions, the “I was young once too” response no longer applies, thanks to the extraordinarily different digital world we now inhabit.

Back in the day, things could blow over quicker than a Trump toupee, rather than hang about in the virtual ether creating a binary stink that stays attached for decades for prospective partners or employers to get a whiff of.

Although I’m pre-noughties, I’m definitely not pre-naughty, so I’m mightily relieved camera phones weren’t kicking about when I was dicking about. I wouldn’t want a photographic reminder of every dodgy outfit I wore or dodgy bloke I snogged.

Lifelink has seen a rise in the number of young people looking for help to manager their stress and anxiety or to cope with confidence issues. Its hardly surprising when you look at the world they inhabit.

This is a real problem of virtual making and its going to take real action to fix it.

On our part – parents, carers, teachers, mentors, social workers or just responsible adults – its going to take patience, vigilance and caring. But first of all it will take understanding.

So try not to slip fully into old fogey mode, instead let’s show our young people some respect. You never know, it might even be returned.