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Is it time for a digital detox? Nearly half of youngsters say they’re addicted to their phones according to new research

Digital Wellbeing

New research from anti-bullying charity @CybersmileHQ reveals that almost half (46%) of young people aged 12-16 feel they’re addicted to their smartphones. Launching today, on Stop Cyberbullying Day, the research uncovers how the UK’s younger generation perceive their own digital wellbeing and the associated risks to their mental and physical health.

The research, which informed Cybersmile’s new report titled ‘Digital Wellbeing 2020’ (also launching today), surveyed 1,000 12-16-year olds, examining their thoughts on how they are using and experiencing online devices and platforms now and pre-lockdown.

The research, report and Cybersmile’s commitment to better understand young people’s relationship with technology are supported by TV medical expert Dr Radha Modgil, an NHS GP & wellbeing campaigner who has previously worked on campaigns with BBC Children in Need, Public Health England and the NHS Youth Forum.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Screen addiction rises – Nearly half (46%) of young people consider themselves addicted to their smartphone. This is particularly evident amongst 16-year-olds, with 55% of those we interviewed considering themselves addicted to theirs.
  • Eat, sleep, phone, repeat – 60% of young people feel that the time they spend online negatively impacts other important areas of their life including sleep, diet, exercise and study. 
  • Obsession takes over – Internet and social media use among young people has doubled during the COVID-19 lockdown, with the daily average time among 12-16-year-olds spent online increasing from 3 to 6+ hours per day.
  • Social fatigue – 35% of young people feel that internet and social media use negatively affects their mental and/or physical health.
  • Parents need to step up – 42% of young people consider their parents to be addicted to their smartphones and 18% of young people would like their parents to help them more with reducing the amount of time they spend online.
  • Looking for help – Over a quarter (27%) of young people feel that their parents would not know how to help them with online related problems. With the same percentage of 16-year-olds not feeling comfortable going to their parents with said problem. A further 13% of 13-year-olds also feel that their parent’s internet or social media use has affected their ability to look after them.
  • School stress – Almost a third (30%) of children feel their school wouldn’t know how to help them with an online related problem.

Dan Raisbeck, Co-Founder of The Cybersmile Foundation said: “As we all spend more time connected to the internet, we need to be mindful of how young people are using and experiencing the devices and platforms that have become integral to their everyday lives. Stop Cyberbullying Day is a chance to educate ourselves on the issues associated with excessive screen time and technology use which can lead to the neglect of healthy routines and increased mental health issues.

Our report – Digital Wellbeing 2020 – provides a unique insight into young people’s perspectives on their own digital wellbeing, as well as the capabilities of existing support structures within their home and school environments to understand where we can offer help.”

Dr Radha Modgil, NHS GP & wellbeing expert adds: “We are all relying much more on technology and online activities for so many aspects of our lives. It has never been more important, therefore, to equip and support people with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to navigate the internet safely without neglecting their own wellbeing. This is why I am supporting The Cybersmile Foundation who are doing incredible work to help people of all ages not only build the necessary skills to deal with online life and to reach out for support when they need it, but also on the importance of kindness, inclusion and digital wellbeing.”

You can download the full report here.

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