The Abingdon Bridge SMART Project (Social Media Anxiety Resilience Team)

Oxfordshire County Council’s Communities Fund have part funded the launch of this initiative.

The aim of the TAB SMART Project is to enable young people to become more digitally resilient so that they are able to both recognise and resist the pressures from social media.

Over the summer The Abingdon Bridge consulted various groups of young people aged 13-25: 70% felt that the internet and social media has a negative impact on their mental health. 1 in 3 had been targeted, threatened or humiliated online. The biggest issue is that young people live in an online world that encourages them to compare themselves with others. They lose touch with who they really are and create a false online identity. This has a huge impact on young people’s self-esteem and resilience. Many young people have reported that social media has made them “less social”.

Our SMART programme consists of:

  • promoting the campaign both online and through our various partnerships across the town, including, Schools, Housing associations, police, community and other youth groups.

  • interactive workshops to our partners, including the secondary schools in Abingdon and other community organisations.

  • 1:1 support through our healthy lifestyles and counselling programmes.

  • training and support for other local youth and community organisations.

TAB's manager, Gary Hibbins, talks to Radio Oxford's David Prever about some of the issues facing young people.It starts about 10 minutes into the programme

From Oxfordshire County Council's website:

Abingdon: Helping young people to deal with social media pressures
Workshops taking place in three Abingdon secondary schools are empowering students to go online safely and understand risks related to privacy and cyberbullying.
The SMART Project (Social Media Anxiety Resilience Team) is run by The Abingdon Bridge charity and enables young people to recognise and resist pressures from social media.
SMART was launched in January last year with the help of a £7,000 grant from Oxfordshire County Council’s Communities Fund.
Cllrs Alison Rooke, Emily Smith, Neil Fawcett and Bob Johnston, whose divisions are all in the Abingdon area, also made donations from their priority fund and have repeated their support with grants of £2,000 each for the year ahead.
The Abingdon Bridge (TAB) offers counselling and one-to-one support to young people aged 13 to 25 who find themselves in challenging circumstances.
SMART reached out to more than 500 students at Larkmead, John Mason and Fitzharrys schools last year. It has also been promoted through partnerships with housing associations, police, community and other youth groups.
Gary Hibbins, service manager for TAB, said research had shown 70 per cent of young people felt the internet and social media had had a negative impact on their mental health.
“One in three have been targeted, threatened or humiliated online. There is an increasing amount of anxiety and young people are constantly comparing themselves to others,” he said.
“Many young people have also reported that social media has made them ‘less social’. They have become less engaged with adults.”
Through the workshops, students have been issued personal challenges, like having 48 hours away from social media and taking part in things like ‘Make Wednesday a No Phone Zone’.
Larkmead student Seb Pita, 16, said work in the SMART workshop had taught him to keep calm about things he read online. He admitted he was a heavy Snapchat and Instagram user but had made efforts to cut his use of social media and had tried to focus more on things like the gym.
Fellow pupil Leon Godwin, 15, said he had also managed to reduce time spent on the phone. “As soon as I stopped going on social media I wasn’t getting so tired,” he said.
And Charlie Neal, 14, added: “The workshops have helped me to become more sensible online and now I’m a lot more careful with my comments.”
Cllr Alison Rooke said she had known about the great work that TAB does for many years.
“This particular project on social media is clearly something that is really needed. It’s something that is going to have a knock-on effect for the rest of their lives and the lives of those who are in contact with them,” she said.
Cllr Emily Smith said: “I’m really pleased that TAB is going into schools to offer these workshops and in some cases that is leading to further support from the charity.
"Reaching young people as early as possible, and helping them develop strategies for coping with whatever life throws at them, is vital for their mental wellbeing and engagement in education.
“TAB has really stepped up and tried to the bridge the gap with young people experiencing mental health issues. That’s why I was so keen to support them.

An Oxfordshire charity which supports young people in challenging circumstances.

Registered Charity Number 1160080

Registered at 19 Bridge Street Abingdon OX14 3HN