Asian family with young girl watching iPad together

Parents’ online habits could sway digital experiences of children

Image credit: Teeraphat Sirisatonpun/Dreamstime

Children whose parents are more aware of their online behaviour gain a more positive experience when using technology, according to new research.

A year-long study by online safety group Internet Matters into the impact of technology on parents and children in the same household found that children who say their parents are on their phones “quite a lot” when they try to talk to them had more negative experiences with technology.

The study’s researchers created an index to measure the digital wellbeing of young people in the UK, based on the impact being online had on the developmental, emotional, physical and social wellbeing of children.

“We’re proud to launch the first index of its kind, that we hope will shape how we help children navigate their digital world amid the rapid pace of change in technology and any hurdles along the way,” said Carolyn Bunting, chief executive of Internet Matters.

The study found that children with parents who better understand the emotional impact of the emotional world benefitted more from the positive wellbeing effects of digital activity. Meanwhile, children who lacked support had more negative experiences.

It also found these effects increase as children get older - as a result Internet Matters is calling on parents to keep conversations around online safety with their children going for longer.

The research showed that children who spent the most time on social media were also the most likely to experience anxiety, worry and self-doubt, with girls the most affected.

Bunting added: “The pandemic has had a big effect on children’s experiences and it is good to know that children whose parents who are on the same page as their kids around digital concerns are the ones who are benefitting the most from the online world.

“These insights offer wide benefits not just in how we can better support families, but also have implications for policy, practice and digital product development as we move towards an Online Safety Bill and Media Literacy Strategy.”

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