Young People Internet Use and Wellbeing; A Report Series Screen Time

Report Prepared by Prof Andy Phippen for SWGfL, March 2018

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Exec Summary

This report, the first in a series related to the relationship between digital technology and young people’s wellbeing, draws from a survey sample of 6,620 young people from year 4 to year 13 across over 100 schools in the UK. The focus of this report is Screen Time –whether there is data to suggest the time spent online results in differences in attitudes and behaviours, specifically related to wellbeing.

Overall analysis on this large sample shows first that there are some young people who spend a lot of time online, a third of our sample spent over 3 hours a day online, and just over 10% declare that they spend over 6 hours online.

Through our analysis, we can see clear correlations between screen time and wellbeing, with some specific findings being:

  • The older young people get the more time they spend online
  • Males are more likely than females to be heavy online users
  • Those who spend a lot of time online are more likely to see upsetting content, receive abusive comments, or send abuse to others
  • Heavy online users are more likely to worry about how much time they spend online, and worry about what they have seen
  • Heavy users are more likely to go online because they are lonely

There are some other indicative results that merit further investigation, such as:

  • Gamers might generally spend a lot of time online but worry less about what they’ve seen or declare they go online because they are lonely
  • Some young people spend very little time online yet still worry they use digital technology “too much”
  • The definition of “upsetting content” for young people is very broad, and is more likely to relate to abuse by peers, animal harm, or even terrorism, rather than sexual content
  • There are clear gender differences related to screen time, and differences related to wellbeing merit further investigation

Subsequent reports will conduct further analysis of this large dataset and will each be released with a specific focus, such as gender, age differences, and what harmful content means to young people.