The Impact of Holiday Breaks on Youth Behavior, Online Safety and Mental Health
During holiday breaks, students who lack healthy connections to responsible adults may be vulnerable to negative influences, particularly those promoting worrisome online behavior.
Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.
While today’s youth encounter a range of holiday experiences, data suggests that these timeframes are not a positive experience for all young people, potentially leading to diverse effects on behavior and development.
For many students, school serves as a source of comfort, routine, and security. However, during the holidays, several challenges can arise that may include increased anxiety. These challenges often stem from changes in routine and increased isolation. The holiday season often acts as a predictable timeframe where violence and bullying prevention experts notice an increase or shift in individuals’ behavioral baselines.
During these predictable timeframes, students who lack healthy connections to responsible adults may be vulnerable to negative influences, particularly those promoting worrisome online behavior. Experts recognize that increased screen time is a real concern for today’s youth and their online safety. Heightened online activity during predictable timeframes can lead to increased exposure to cyberbullying/bullying, online harassment, and exploitation.
These timeframes may also lead to experimentation with drugs or alcohol which often occurs due to boredom, peer pressure, or an attempt to escape mental health challenges.
Cyberbullying/Bullying, Online Harassment, Exploitation
Cyberbullying has become increasingly prevalent due to the rapidly evolving nature of digital communication, especially among today’s youth. The validation of self-esteem, worth, and identity through online interactions may expose young people to the impact of cyberbullying on their mental well-being. Data suggests there has been an increase in cyberbullying behavior among today’s youth.
Online harassment encompasses a broader spectrum of negative behaviors that go beyond the confines of bullying. It includes persistent, unwanted, and often malicious actions carried out through digital channels. Harassment can target individuals or groups based on various factors such as gender, race, religion, or personal beliefs.
The risk of exploitation can be heightened as individuals, particularly today’s youth, spend more time online. Exploitation can take various forms, including financial exploitation, sexual exploitation, or the manipulation of personal information for nefarious purposes.
Mental Health Challenges, Isolation, Loneliness, Anxiety, Depression
Mental health challenges may escalate/evolve during predictable timeframes, particularly for youth disconnected from school activities. Isolation is a significant contributing factor to the exacerbation of mental health challenges. Individuals who experience isolation often lack meaningful social connections, which are crucial for emotional support and a sense of belonging. This isolation can be particularly pronounced during predictable timeframes, such as school breaks, holidays, or when regular social activities may be disrupted.
Additionally, predictable timeframes can lead to heightened anxiety levels. For youth disconnected from school activities during breaks, the lack of routine and social interactions may contribute to increased feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and depression.
Ensuring Digital Privacy
Why do we overshare? Social media platforms are designed to facilitate the sharing of information and experiences. It’s easy to post a status update, a photo, an event, or a “check-in” with the click of a button.
During holidays, the frequency of oversharing tends to increase. Many individuals feel compelled to share their travel plans, experiences, or holiday festivities on social media. While this can be a way to connect with friends and family, it also raises concerns about the potential risks associated with sharing too much information, particularly regarding one’s whereabouts.
To mitigate potential security risks, individuals should adopt a mindful approach to social media sharing. This includes being selective about the information shared, adjusting privacy settings to control the audience for each post, and refraining from posting real-time updates about travel plans.
Educating students, staff, parents/caregivers, and communities about online safety is paramount. Open dialogues between parents/caregivers or trusted adults and youth are crucial for addressing these issues. Positive adult role models in the community can significantly impact high-risk vulnerable youth through early identification and intervention. Encouraging youth to engage in sports, activities, school programs, and educational activities during predictable timeframes can help maintain routines and create positive environments.
It is crucial to recognize the signs of mental health issues and implement strategies to address and prevent their escalation. Providing support systems, both within and outside educational settings, can help mitigate the impact of predictable timeframes. The collaboration of parents, schools, and community organizations in addressing these concerns and providing resources during predictable timeframes can have a substantial impact on young people.
To help introduce the major social media platforms, video games, and relevant trends that are either being used already or have the potential to be used by today’s youth, Safer Schools Together (SST), a violence prevention and intervention company, has developed a complimentary resource, Raising Digitally Responsible Youth: A Parent’s Guide.
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