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UKSA’s screen time reduction trial hailed a success as it looks to ease social media induced anxiety amongst young students

UKSA students

Earlier this year, UKSA launched a screen time reduction trial in a bid to ease anxiety amongst its young students as a third of an increasingly screen dependent Generation Z, students aged 16 to 25, worry they’re spending too much time on social media.

The world’s largest RYA centre and UK maritime charity, based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight has completed a seven week trial among 12 of its Further Education students with 58 per cent reporting an overall reduction across the seven week project. The largest reduction recorded was, coincidentally, also 58 per cent and the smallest, two per cent. The trial was aiming to encourage non-screen-based activities, boost socialising in person and reduce social media induced anxiety.

Clare Powell, Education Manager at UKSA leading on the trial said: “This project was really valuable and although some of the students achieved a reduction and some remained at a similar level of screen time, the value of the project was evident by the response and changed behaviour, particularly in class time. Six of our staff team also took part to be fully involved in the project. Each week, the learners and staff were interested in the results and came up with new strategies to reduce screentime.”

Some of the feedback from the students included:

“My time went down and that really surprised me, I didn’t think I could do it.”

“Doing this project helped me to focus in class and think more about going on my phone.”

“I cannot believe how high my starting time was!”

“I was really surprised to find out how much time I spent on TikTok and it really made me think about the time wasted.”

“To get my time down, I tried to do more outdoors, I really enjoyed this and now do it more.”

UKSA worked with the students to establish the times they typically spend more time on screens and offer alternative activities during these times with students sharing their screen data on a weekly basis with the UKSA team.

Clare said:

“We wanted to work with the students to help them individually identify the causes of the screen time, what alternatives might be available. Are they scrolling out of boredom rather than need? And how can we address that to create new, more healthy habits,”

As a result of the trial, UKSA has updated its mental health strategy and included a new section on screen time so it now forms part of the mental health teaching to all students, which is delivered through the charity’s welfare team. It is also introducing a new e-learning module into its further education courses on keeping safe online which will be rolled out in September.

The trial was prompted by a 2023 GWI Report on Gen Z which demonstrated 20 per cent of the generation say social media causes them anxiety, 25 per cent more likely than other generations to say this. Globally, they’re more likely than other generations to report having a mental health condition and almost 33 per cent say they’re prone to anxiety, a higher proportion than any other age group with the rates of anxiety and stress also rising.

Kim Fry, Safeguarding and Welfare Manager at UKSA said at the start of the trial:

“Whilst we appreciate that our young people need technology to study and connect, we value the idea that screen-free time is important for making personal connections and experiencing the world in real and actual terms.”

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