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‘What’ to ask – the content of conversations

What should be covered within conversations about online activity to enable practitioners to identify risk and support a young person’s mental health

What to ask: About Us

Good Practice Indicators

1. There is a set of key topics that it is important for clinicians to always ask about when exploring online activities (see below)

2. There is a set of key topics that clinicians should ask young people with disordered eating when exploring online activities (see below)

3. There is a set of key topics that clinicians should ask young people presenting with self-harm or suicidal thoughts when exploring online activities (see below)

4. Discussions about worrying online activity should usually include asking for the names of sites visited, descriptions of content created by the young person and details of participation in online groups

5. Asking about online activities should take the form of a deeper conversation in which clinicians encourage the young person to reflect on their behaviour patterns and the impacts of these (see below)

6. Adapted approaches may be necessary if asking younger age groups or young people with neurodevelopmental disorders

What to ask: Resources

Topics to always ask about

Activities and content viewed

Image by Glenn Carstens-Peters
  • Gaming online

  • Social Media use (generating or browsing content)

  • Use of crisis services

  • Chatting to others with shared experience of mental health (e.g. via chat-rooms/ forums)

  • Use of apps

  • Viewing self-harm/ suicide-related content (e.g. methods and images)

  • Viewing graphic violence (eg. images/ videos of death or serious injury)

  • One-to-one online friendships

Online experiences

Playing games on a phone
  • Cyberbullying

  • Being groomed

  • Radicalisation

  • ‘Doxing’—having personal information shared without consent (eg. intimate images)

Patterns of use/ activity

Image by Adrian Swancar
  • Frequency

  • Time spent online (eg. browsing)

  • Times of the day spent online

  • Changing use (e.g. peaks, dips, increases)

  • Impact on sleep

Topics to ask young people

with disordered eating

Image by Diana Polekhina
  • Visiting ‘pro-ana’ websites 

  • Use of exercise apps

  • Use of dieting apps 

  • Online purchase of weight loss medicine  Obsessively viewing food-related sites    

  • Use of physical activity/ smart devices

​Topics to ask young people with with self-harm or suicidal thoughts

Image by Markus Spiske
  • Looking up methods of harm/ suicide

  • Viewing images of self-harm

  • Joining forums to discuss self-harm

  • Posting images of own self-harm

  • Visiting pro self-harm/ suicide sites

  • Individuals/ influencers followed

  • Consuming media with themes of depression

What to ask: Services
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Topics to explore to encourage reflection and self-awareness

  • Strategies for reducing exposure to harmful content

  • Strategies for recognising where patterns of online activity indicate worsening mental health

  • Strategies for dealing with harmful or upsetting content

  • Identification of offline alternatives to online activities

  • Signposting to useful sites or apps

What to ask: About

Clinician quote

"I don’t think we should make assumptions about what we expect a young person’s online activity to look like. It is better to remain curious and ask everyone the same questions even if we think they may not be relevant"

What to ask: Quote

Young person quote

"Younger people may not yet be exposed to some topics and become curious after being questioned. Filter questions"

What to ask: Quote


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