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Cybersmile study: 46 per cent of UK kids aged 12-16 feel they're addicted to their phone

David Murphy

A study from anti-bullying charity, Cybersmile, reveals that almost half (46 per cent) of young people aged 12-16 feel they’re addicted to their smartphones. Launching today, on Stop Cyberbullying Day, the research reveals 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 children aged 12-16, 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.

The report found that 46 per cent of young people consider themselves addicted to their smartphone, with that figure rising to 55 per cent among 16-year-olds. 60 per cent of young people feel that the time they spend online negatively impacts other important areas of their life, including sleep, diet, exercise and study.

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 three, to more than six hours per day. And 35 per cent of young people feel that internet and social media use negatively affects their mental and/or physical health.

42 per cent of young people consider their parents to be addicted to their smartphones and 18 per cent of young people would like their parents to help them more with reducing the amount of time they spend online. But over a quarter (27 per cent) of young people feel that their parents would not know how to help them with online-related problems, and the same percentage of 16-year-olds said they would not feel comfortable going to their parents to talk about the issue. A further 13 per cent of 13-year-olds also feel that their parent’s internet or social media use has affected their ability to look after them. Finally, 30 per cent of children feel their school wouldn’t know how to help them with an online-related problem.

"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,” said Dan Raisbeck, Co-Founder of The Cybersmile Foundation. “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 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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