Social Media Addiction of Young People: They May Be Wiser Than Their Parents

Digital Awareness UK, a group focused on encouraging young people to use social media responsibly, and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents the headteachers of independent schools around the world, commissioned a study of 5,000 students and parents at independent and state schools in England about their attitudes towards consumer technology and social media.

In a story running in several major news outlets, such as The Guardian, the report indicates that the respondents had these attitudes towards tech and social media:

  • Almost two-thirds of pupils said they would not care if the technology did not exist and talk of negative impact on wellbeing;
  • 71% said they had taken temporary digital detoxes to escape social media;
  • One third of those surveyed said they would like to see social media provide more opportunities to earn income;
  • 57% said they had received abusive comments online;
  • 56% admitted to being on the edge of addiction;
  • 52% said social media made them feel less confident about how they look or how interesting their life is;
  • More than 60% believed friends showed a “fake version” of themselves on social media;
  • 71% of students urged less advertising;
  • 47% of children said their biggest concern about being on-line is lack of sleep but only 19% of parents chose that as their biggest concern about their children;
  • 72% of students said they spent anything between 3 and 10 hours online on an average day during weekends and holidays;
  • Nearly half of students said they “wouldn’t mind” if all their devices were taken away for a weekend, although 20% said they would feel ‘isolated’ and 11% would feel ‘panicky’;
  • 82% of children say meal times should be device-free;
  • 36% of children say they have asked their parents to stop checking their mobile devices; 46% of children  say it made no difference when they did so;
  • 43% of parents thought they spent too much of their own time online;

Smartphones and social media have many useful aspects and positive benefits. But the businesses behind these devices and services are concerned first and foremost about making money for investors. High levels of use benefits their business models; reduced and occasional use will knock their financial forecasts sideways.

Each of us has to take accountability for our own level of engagement with social media and understand that overuse, even addiction, to said devices and social media platforms, is in the economic interests of companies who will not do much to prevent overuse or addiction, just as tobacco companies did little to stop addiction, and even encouraged its formation.