Welcome to Week 6. As we are exactly midway through the term, all necessary routines are now established which helps in managing the demands and expectations students have of themselves and what parents and staff have of students. Organisation is the sole key to achieving success in this area and we encourage our girls to be exactly that – organised in all things they do. They need to focus on prioritising.
As we look ahead, Yr 12 will have their mid-course examinations in two weeks and to that end, I am buoyed by the strong feedback I have received about the positive way in which the majority of our students have started the year. This is typified by a very settled atmosphere that is both productive and full of vim and vigour.
I have attached for your interest the latest “Trends in Children’s Wellbeing” as published by the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. The single biggest bone of contention between parents-students and teachers-students I witness today is the smartphone. This reading will certainly reinforce what we knew to be the case and it makes for some frightening, if not fascinating, reading. As with everything in life, moderation is the operative word.
Trends in Children’s Wellbeing
The OECD has issued a working paper on recent trends in the emotional wellbeing of children and adolescents, and factors impacting on those trends. The paper provides a synthesis of the literature on young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, including PISA 2015 results where relevant. It finds that different factors underlie more recent emotional wellbeing trends, including sleep deprivation, increasing levels of stress and anxiety, and social relations. Cognitive-behavioural therapy, which aims to improve problem solving, coping skills and to overcome negative thoughts and emotions, is identified as the most common element among effective prevention and intervention programs for depression, anxiety and suicide.
The paper notes that forming a positive relationship with teachers and other adults in the school environment can have a positive impact on children’s emotional wellbeing. Positive teacher-student relationships are associated with emotion regulation and positive peer relationships, better handling of stress and higher reports of happiness.
Recent research in the United States tracking mental health issues in adolescents between 2010 and 2015, has found that in that period the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless rose by 33% and teen suicide attempts increased 23%, while the number of 13 to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31%. These increases were experienced by teens across all demographics.
Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and lead researcher of the study has written:
“What happened that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teen’s lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.”
Professor Twenge suggests that as smartphone usage increases, the decrease in interacting with people face to face is affecting teen’s mood and mental health. Smartphone use is also linked with sleep deprivation, a major risk factor for depression. She advocates limiting screen time to two hours a day or less.
Student Wellbeing Census
The UK’s Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues has posted the results of a census undertaken jointly by Dubai’s 168 private schools in December 2017. The census of students in Grades 6 to 9 (Years 7 to 10) aimed to measure student’s social and emotional wellbeing, physical health and lifestyle, relationships and learning and after-school activities. Findings include:
Overall, 84% of students reported they were happy at school, with the proportion of students reporting they were happy falling from 88% in Grade 6 to 78% in Grade 9
Students reporting higher levels of happiness at school were more likely to report getting a good night’s sleep, having close friendships, feeling that they do better than others in their schoolwork and being enrolled in Indian curriculum schools
68% of Grade 6 students reported going to bed before 10pm compared to 31% of Grade 9 students
76% of boys and 69% of girls reported eating breakfast five or more times per week.
Family Fun & Adolescent’s Wellbeing
Analysis by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and the University of Western Australia of responses to the 2014 Australian Child Wellbeing Project (which surveyed 5440 students in Years 4, 6 and 8) has affirmed a positive correlation between family cohesion and students’ wellbeing in the middle years.
The study examined the effects of school environment and peer relationships on early adolescent’s wellbeing after controlling for the influence of family factors. Findings include:
At Year 4, having fun together with family was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction
At Year 6, the strongest predictor of life satisfaction was the frequency with which students reported feeling low; students who felt low rarely, never or every month reported higher life satisfaction than students who felt low weekly or every day
Having fun with the family was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction for Year 8 students, followed by the frequency of feeling low; among students who reported frequently feeling low, twice as many students experiencing regular family fun reported high life satisfaction compared to students experiencing less family fun.