Horowhenua College's principal has issued a challenge to students to switch off social media for three days for the sake of their mental health and self esteem.

Grant Congdon made a video message played to students at assembly, inviting them to participate in the Zero-4-Three challenge.

"I believe that today's teenagers are under a huge amount of pressure, and I'm really concerned about this pressure," Congdon said in the message.

"The effect this increasing pressure is having on teenagers is directly affecting their wellbeing, especially their mental health."

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Congdon said he believed a significant contributing factor was social media use.

"When I was a teenager, if someone wanted to make a comment to me about what I looked like or what I was wearing, or eating or saying or doing, they would have had to either say it to my face, phone me or write a letter," he said.

"Nowadays, anyone can make a comment anywhere, anytime, and even to you in the security of your own home. I believe this is significant in increasing the pressure on today's teenagers."

Congdon said Zero-4-Three consisted of four steps.

The first was for students to honestly reflect on their own wellbeing and mental health, asking how they feel about themselves.

Step two involved getting in touch with friends and contacts to let them know social media will be switched off for three days.

Step three was to turn off all social media platforms and to replace the time normally spent on social media with an interactive activity.

"Not extra screen time," Congdon said.

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"Do something else in particular with other people. Face to face. Go for a walk up Trig, go for a coffee up town, play a game of tennis, sit down and chat face to face and engage with people."

Step four was to again honestly reflect and assess how they felt after three days.

"Whether you agree with me or not, my challenge is to have a go and see if this makes an effect on your own wellbeing, your own mental health," Congdon said.

Social media is putting significant pressure on teenagers, says Horowhenua College principal Grant Congdon.
Social media is putting significant pressure on teenagers, says Horowhenua College principal Grant Congdon.

"I'm concerned enough to put this challenge out there because I believe social media is having significant pressure on teenagers. You may think it's a load of rubbish but you won't know until you give it a go."

He said that if after three days, students found it had an effect on their wellbeing, and they felt better about themselves, they could manage their social media use better.

"Here's the message - manage your social media, don't let social media manage you."

Some students were addicted to their phones and it would not be an easy challenge, Congdon said, but he challenged them nonetheless, as he believed the positive effect on wellbeing would be self-evident.

"The idea for Zero-4-Three came from observing how attached teenagers are to their phones and realising how difficult it is for them to spend time away from their phone," he said.

"The challenge in principle was widely accepted by the students. I am aware of a group of junior students who are presently doing the challenge."

Congdon said there were a number of initiatives at the college to help support teenagers and he also advocated for a wider community approach.

"It is acknowledged that the support our teenagers need will not just come from one source but require numerous and varied approaches," he said.

"In essence it is a community wide problem which as a community we need to take ownership of and provide the necessary support to our own teenagers."