In early 2022, Internet Matters published the first Index designed to measure the impact of digital technology on the wellbeing of children in four areas of their lives – developmental, emotional, physical and social. From surveys conducted with UK children aged 9-15 and their parents, the first wave of research provided a snapshot of children’s digital experiences and their effects, which were both positive and negative. This year’s Index – populated with data from a second year of research with families – gives both an up-to-date illustration of the effects digital technology is having on children’s wellbeing and provides the first set of comparative data indicating changes and possible emergent trends. This year, to further strengthen the output, our survey included additional questions to explore wider areas of children’s online experiences and allow comparisons across different types of families. These additional questions asked about online harms and broadened our definition of vulnerabilities to include the impact of financial disadvantage on children’s experiences online. The Index is based on responses to a detailed survey of 1,000 children
aged 9-15 and their parents, conducted during summer 2022. In-depth qualitative interviews with six families allowed the researchers to explore many of the issues revealed by the survey data in greater detail and are used throughout this report as illustrative case studies.
The most striking year-on-year changes the Index reveals are:
The positive effects of being online have reduced for children since last year and just 3 of the 16 wellbeing metrics measured show a year-on-year improvement.
The positive impact of digital technology on children’s developmental and social wellbeing are less this year than they were last year. This may point to the fact that children are less reliant on technology in those areas of their lives this year than in the year before when pandemic restrictions were in place.
Children report experiencing more negative impacts on their physical wellbeing than last year, which seems to be driven by the fact that due to pre-pandemic activities returning, this is pushing their technology use later into the evening, which is having more impact on their sleep.
The negative impact of digital technology on children’s emotional wellbeing has lessened compared with last year, but only for boys. In particular, this seems to be experienced more by older boys, who reported experiencing fewer negative effects than last year.
However, 9-10-year-old girls appear to be experiencing more negative impacts of digital technology on their social and physical wellbeing than the same age-group last year. This may reflect the fact that girls are getting their first device and actively socialising online from a younger age than they used to be.
Parents reported that the positive effects of digital technology on their children are less than last year across all dimensions of their wellbeing. Only one metric had improved according to parents, who reported a significant decrease in the negative impact on children’s social wellbeing.