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Three in 10 pupils worry about how online safety will impact their future

By Catherine Lough, PA Education Correspondent

This was originally sent under embargo
Nearly three in ten pupils are anxious about their future when it comes to their online safety, a new report from Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has found.

In Mr Zahawi’s State of the Nation report, published on Tuesday and released to mark Children’s Mental Health Week, findings show that 29% of children and young people are most likely to be worried about online safety when thinking about their future.

It is the first time online safety concerns have been raised in the annual report, which also reveals how 5% of nine to 17-year-olds are unhappy with their experiences online, while unhappiness with online experiences appears to increase with age.

The news comes as the Government seeks to strengthen its Online Safety Bill to protect children from online harms.

Some £11 million has previously been announced in the Spending Review for the Reducing Parental Conflict programme to prevent “bickering” between children and parents, which can exacerbate mental health issues.

The report found that most young people have a good relationship with their family on average, but that children who reported poor relationships with their parents are more likely to struggle with their mental health.

The Government said the new funding could be used by councils in the training of frontline staff working in policing, schools, the health sector and social care to help them identify parental conflict.

The report captures the experiences of five to 24-year-olds during the pandemic during the 2020/21 academic year, and shows that children and young people’s wellbeing is “gradually improving”.

The news comes as 8,000 eligible schools and colleges have applied for a senior mental health lead training grant since applications opened.

Children and families minister Will Quince said the resilience of children and young people “should never be underestimated” and that although they had “coped remarkably well over the last few years”, the report highlighted how school was the “best place for their education and wellbeing”.

“These two things must go hand in hand, which is exactly why we are investing so significantly in mental health services, both by improving access to NHS services and by making tailored support available in schools and colleges, with training for staff to confidently deliver this,” he added.

Higher and further education minister Michelle Donelan said: “University is without doubt an unforgettable experience but even at the best of times it is not without its challenges.

“Throughout the pandemic, protecting students’ mental health and wellbeing has therefore been of the utmost importance to me.

Funding for online platform Student Space will also be extended to July 2022 to support students’ mental health.

Mental health minister Gillian Keegan said: “Children and young people were uniquely impacted by the pandemic and while they showed incredible resilience throughout, it is right that as we look to the future their mental health is prioritised.

“We are investing more than any other government in expanding and transforming mental health services, including rolling out mental health support teams in schools, and it is encouraging to see the positive impact this is having on students’ mental health and wellbeing.”

DWP Lords minister Baroness Stedman-Scott added: “Arguments and occasional bickering might seem harmless but when this kind of conflict is continually aggressive and left unaddressed, it can cause real unhappiness and harm children’s life chances.”

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