UK study: Overexposure to technology makes children miserable

31 Oct

Natural disasters and hurricanes like “Katrina” and “Sandy” demonstrate how dependent modern society is on a power source and how dependent modern society is on it’s technology. Back in the day, when there were no IPods, or IPads people were forced to do old school things like talk to each other and play cards or board games. Helen Robin and her kids have written the great article, 100 Things To Do With Kids During a Power Outage. Among her suggestions are:

1. Read

2. Make up stories

3. Mad Libs

4. Write a book

5. Play dolls

6. Play school

7. Paint our toenails

8. Paint our brother’s toenails 😉

9. Make puppets

10. Have a “Bear Hunt”

11. Play cards

12. Read books outloud

13. Play hide and seek

14. Play Hucklebucklebeanstalk

15. Have a scavenger hunt

16. Hide something sweet and create a “treasure” map for the kids to solve

17. Learn Morse Code

18. Invent your own code

19. Paint family portraits

20. Build a house of cards

21. Learn the state capitals                               

These suggestions are certainly useful in times where the only light comes from candles or flashlights. A study from the United Kingdom suggests that too much technology might not be beneficial for children.

Graeme Patton of the U.K.’s Telegraph writes in the article, Overexposure to technology ‘makes children miserable’:

Young people exposed to modern technology for more than four hours a day are less likely to display high levels of “wellbeing” than those limiting access to less than 60 minutes, it emerged.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics found that the use of video games and social networking had a number of advantages, including enhancing existing friendships and allowing shy children to communicate.

But it warned of negative effects for young people exposed for technology for too long during the normal school day.

The conclusions come just days after a leading academic warned that a generation of children risks growing up with obsessive personalities, poor self-control, short attention spans and little empathy because of an addiction to social networking websites such as Twitter.

Baroness Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, said a decline in physical human contact meant children struggled to formulate basic social skills and emotional reactions.

Young people’s brains were failing to develop properly after being overexposed to the cyber world at an early age, she claimed.

According to figures quoted by the ONS, almost 85 per cent of children born in 2000/01 have access to a computer and the internet at home. Some 12 per cent have their own computer and the same proportion had a personal mobile phone.

Separate data showed that six per cent of children aged 10-to-15 used online chatrooms or played games consoles for more than four hours on an average school day.


Measuring National Well-being – Children’s Well-being, 2012

Part of Measuring National Well-being, Measuring Children’s Well-being Release

Released: 26 October 2012 Download PDF


This article is published as part of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Measuring National Well-being Programme and discusses the well-being of children aged 0 to 15. The Programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation – how the UK as a whole is doing. The article will cover both objective and subjective measures of well-being. Areas covered will include infant mortality, birth weight, satisfaction with relationships and access to and use of technology.

Technology and Social Media

Data from the Understanding Society Survey showed that in the UK 95 per cent of children aged 10 to 15 years had computer access at home. Computer use for educational purposes in the home was also found to be high, with nearly 90 per cent of children using a computer at least once a month for homework or course work. The same survey, collected between 2009 and 2010, showed that a higher proportion of boys (96 per cent) than girls (89 per cent) had at least one games console in their home1. Girls on the other hand are more likely (90 per cent) to have their own mobile phone than boys (84 per cent)

The use of technology and social networking by children has advantages which include:

  • Catching up with family and friends
  • Sending messages instantly to several friends at once
  • Ability to engage in play even if external weather conditions do not allow outside play
  • Able to play video games with people who are thousands of miles away
  • Easier communication for shy individuals
  • Enhance existing friendships, happiness and well-being (Valkenburg and Peter, 2009)

Too much time spent playing or chatting on line may also have disadvantages including:

  • The possibility of cyber bullying
  • Being preyed on by perverted individuals
  • Addictive in rare cases
  • Risk of obesity because of lack of physical activity

For children there is a connection between the length of time for which they use media and their well-being. Research in 2011 from the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ESRC) reported that children in the UK who had access to computer games, games consoles and internet use at home for less than an hour on a normal school day also reported better well-being than those who used these facilities for four hours or more. Children who spend too much time chatting on line may also be at risk of unwanted attention and harassment (Askew et al, 2011).

While playing on games consoles and chatting on social media sites can enhance children’s recreational and networking experiences there are risks with excessive usage. Figure 11 shows that 6 per cent of children chat online for four hours or more on a school day compared to 26 per cent and 30 per cent who spend less than one hour and up to 3 hours chatting on line. The figure also shows proportions of children playing on games consoles on a school day; 33 per cent playing for less than an hour, 29 per cent playing for up to three hours and 6 per cent playing for four hours or more.

Figure 11: Use of technology and social media on a school day by 10 to 15 year olds

United Kingdom

Download chart

Data from the Millennium Cohort Study2 also show that:

  • Nearly 85 per cent of children born in 2000-2001 have access to a computer and the internet at home but only three quarters of them use it
  • 12 per cent of these children have their own computer and another 12 per cent have their own mobile phone
  • A high proportion of 11 to 12 year olds (83 per cent) have rules about how long they can watch TV on a school day

Notes for Technology and Social Media

  1. All differences are statistically significant at 95 per cent Confidence Interval
  2. MCS is a longitudinal study of children born in the New Millennium (2000-2001) and their siblings.

Some people are so tied to technology that they develop an addiction.

Moi wrote in Children’s sensory overload from technology:

Jason Dick has 15 Warning Signs That Your Child is An Internet Addict

Psychological and media experts have compiled a list of warning signs for Internet addiction:

1. The Internet is frequently used as a means of escaping from problems or relieving a depressed mood.

2. Your child often loses track of time while online.

3. Sleep is sacrificed for the opportunity to spend more time online.

4. Your child prefers to spend more time online than with friends or family.

5. He/She lies to family member and friends about the amount of time or nature of surfing being done on the Internet.

6. Your child becomes irritable if not allowed to access the Internet.

7. He/She has lost interest in activities they once found enjoyable before getting online access.

8. Your child forms new relationships with people they have met online.

9. They check their email several times per day.

10. He/She has jeopardized relationships, achievements, or educational opportunities because of the Internet.

11. Your child disobeys the time limits that have been set for Internet usage.

12. They eat in front of the computer frequently.

13. Your child develops withdrawal symptoms including: anxiety, restlessness, or trembling hands after not using the Internet for a lengthy period of time.

14.Your child is preoccupied with getting back online when away from the computer.

15. They have trouble distinguishing between the virtual world and the real world.

It is very important that parents identify Internet addiction in their children at an early age and set limits on their Internet use. My next article will provide a no nonsense contract that parents can use with their children to set limits and boundaries on Internet use.

See also, Internet Addiction in Children and Internet Addiction Linked to ADHD and Depression in Teens

Helpguide.Org has a good article on treating internet addiction in teens. Among their suggestions are:

It’s a fine line as a parent. If you severely limit a child or teen’s Internet use, they might rebel and go to excess. But you can and should model appropriate computer use, supervise computer activity and get your child help if he or she needs it. If your child or teen is showing signs of Internet addiction, there are many things that you as a parent can do to help:

  • Encourage other interests and social activities. Get your child out from behind the computer screen. Expose kids to other hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Boy or Girl Scouts, and afterschool clubs.

  • Monitor computer use and set clear limits. Make sure the computer is in a common area of the house where you can keep an eye on your child’s online activity, and limit time online, waiting until homework and chores are done. This will be most effective if you as parents follow suit. If you can’t stay offline, chances are your children won’t either.

  • Talk to your child about underlying issues. Compulsive computer use can be the sign of deeper problems. Is your child having problems fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress? Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling if you are concerned about your child.

There is something to be said for Cafe Society where people actually meet face-to-face for conversation or the custom of families eating at least one meal together. Time has a good article on The Magic of the Family Meal See, also Family Dinner: The Value of Sharing Meals

Perhaps, acting like the power is out from time to time and using Helen Robin’s suggestions is not such a bad idea.


Is ‘texting’ destroying literacy skills                    

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:


Dr. Wilda Reviews ©                  

Dr. Wilda ©                                                                          

3 Responses to “UK study: Overexposure to technology makes children miserable”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: