Resources planned to help tackle online addiction among students

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
In control? A scene from the Tech Control short film, produced by the HMC and Digital Awareness UK, which highlights the problems of online and mobile device addiction

Schools and digital experts are working on a new range of resources to help combat online addiction and its impact on young people and family life.

It comes after a study involving 2,000 students and 3,000 parents, conducted by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Digital Awareness UK, revealed the biggest concerns about mobile device use among young people.

It found that children’s biggest worry about being online is the resulting lack of sleep, whereas parents’ biggest concern is the impact on their children’s social skills.

However, the study, which was conducted via a mix of state and independent academy chains, found very low concern among both the parents and children about issues such as cyber-bullying and sexting.

A majority of the students (72 per cent) said they would spend anything between three and 10 hours online a day during weekends or holidays; 11 per cent said this figure was between 10 and 15 hours a day.

Nearly half of the students said they “wouldn’t mind” if all their devices were taken away for a weekend. However, 20 per cent said they would feel “isolated” and 11 per cent would feel “panicky”.

Elsewhere, 22 per cent of students felt that the use of mobile devices stopped their families from enjoying each other’s company and 82 per cent say meal times should be device-free.

And 43 per cent of parents thought they themselves spent too much time online; 21 per cent said they were online for six to 10 hours a day.

The HMC is now to work with Digital Awareness UK to produce a range of resources to help schools tackle digital or online addiction among students and to support families. These will be made available to HMC member schools as well as their state school partners.

The partnership has already produced a YouTube film highlighting the impact of digital addiction on the life of a student and her family.

Mike Buchanan, chair of the HMC and head at Ashford School in Kent, said: “Mobile devices have become an integral part of life at school, work and play and parents, teachers and pupils need to work together to rewrite the rule book. Schools are getting more requests for help from parents puzzling how to cope best with their children’s fast-changing lives.

“Our poll shows that children are aware of many of the risks associated with over-use of technology but they need the adults in their lives to set clear boundaries and role-model sensible behaviour. To achieve this, we need to join up the dots between school and home and give consistent advice.

“Many schools are already doing great work to open their doors to parents, with initiatives as diverse as Teenage Journey events, parenting workshops, free-ranging question and answer sessions with the head, and expert talks. We are also working on new resources for our schools which we will share with state school colleagues.”

Emma Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, added: “We are surprised that the biggest concern when it comes to online safety for parents is the impact technology has on their children’s social skills, especially as this is an area that few schools are providing education around. Interestingly children believe their parents’ biggest concern would be linked to sleep deprivation, an issue that has recently been spotlighted.

“This might be partly explained by the fact that the thousands of children we talk to in schools tell us that their parents often don’t know how much time they’re spending on their devices overnight, or what they are actually doing online. This is a new and hidden world which adults can find hard to penetrate.

“We hope these findings will be a wake-up call for families and motivate them to have serious conversations about the safe and healthy use of technology. We are encouraged by the attention some schools are now giving to this serious issue and the attempts to bring teachers, pupils and parents together to find consistent solutions.”

To watch the YouTube film, entitled Tech Control, click below


For more information on the HMC, which is a professional association of headteachers from independent schools across the world, visit www.hmc.org.uk
For more information about the work of Digital Awareness UK, visit www.digitalawarenessuk.com


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