If you left your kids to their own devices… They might never leave their devices

Internet Matters launches new thought-provoking ad campaign aimed at helping parents find the right screen time balance for their kids

  • More than two thirds of parents believe their children spend too much time online – though 70% say it’s vital for their kids’ learning and development
  • One in five parents worry their kids aren’t making real friends due to internet use, as well as having concerns about screen time impacting sleep and school work

Tuesday, September 3, 2019, UK. Internet Matters today launches a powerful new TV campaign to help parents find the right screen time balance for their children – as research reveals nearly 70% worry their kids spend too much time online.

The compelling TV ad will chime with millions of parents as it shows a nine-year-old girl mesmerised by a screen along with the tagline ‘if you left your kids to their own devices…they may never leave their devices’.

In the next scene, the same girl using her tablet to find a cake recipe with her mum – highlighting the ways the digital world can be used as a positive resource.

The ad – which launches to coincide with the start of a new school year and will run throughout September and October – is part of a focus from Internet Matters on the importance of striking a balance in children’s internet use, agreeing boundaries and ensuring time on the internet is well spent.

It comes as new research of 2,000 UK parents shows over a third (37%) say they have to “fight for their attention” because of the levels of screen time.

Out of the 67% who worry their child is spending too long online – whether playing games or on social media – one in four (24%) are “very concerned”.

Nearly two-thirds of parents (63%) with children aged four and five say they are worried their child is spending too much time online. Concerns peak for parents with children aged 11- 13, with nearly three quarters (72%) expressing concern over too much time spent on their devices.

Parents of children aged 14-16 are particularly concerned about the impact of screen time on sleep patterns and school work. Half (50%) say their 14 to 16-year-old “stays up late using their devices and it impacts their sleep”. More than a third (36%) say it’s impacting their homework and 40% say it’s impacting family time together. 63% of parents are concerned about the impact social media has on their kids’ mental well-being.

Out of the activities they do, the biggest concern is watching videos (59%), followed by gaming on consoles (41%), gaming on smartphones or tablets (36%) and connecting with friends on social media (35%).

But the research also revealed 70% of parents believe using devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones, is essential for their child’s learning and development. And around the same amount (67%) believe devices allow their child to be creative.

Meanwhile over a third of parents (36%) believe their children are not getting enough time to play outside because of screen time – while nearly a quarter (22%) say it’s holding children back from making real friends, rising to 30% for 14-16-year-olds.

Despite their concerns, more than one in five parents of 14-16 year olds say they take no action to restrict the amount of time their children spend online – compared to the average of 12% across all age groups.

Internet Matters ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos said:“Parents can often
find themselves in a dilemma when it comes to their kids and their devices. They know there is a whole amazing world online that can be beneficial to their kids, but they also see how apps, games and platforms pull them in and keep their attention.

“That’s why it is so important to talk to your children and agree boundaries with your kids around not just how long they go online for, but what they go online for; what is healthy screen time and what is unhealthy screen time. It doesn’t mean they can never play games or watch their favourite gaming vloggers.

“The conversation must be around how what they do during their screen time rather than simply the amount of time they spend and the role parents play can do to help them make the time they spend more beneficial – away from mindless scrolling.

“Balance is key. Ask your children how they want to invest the time they have online and make sure it’s not wasted. The more you get involved and understand the things your children do online, the easier it is to influence what they do in their digital world.”

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters said:“Screen time is a real challenge for most parents, so our campaign brings together the best advice and guidance for parents so they can help their children live a balanced digital life. The back to school period is a time when we know parents are thinking about their children’s online safety, so it’s a good time to have a conversation with your child and re-set some screen time boundaries.

“We aim to give parents the tools they need so they can become more involved in what their kids are doing online and get to grips with how to maintain their digital wellbeing.”

To make the ad as realistic as possible, filmmakers shot genuine footage of nine-year-old Evie streaming a video on her tablet.

Evie said: “Seeing the advert was quite strange because I saw my face and I realised how much I am paying attention to the tablet and nothing else. It’s really important that there are time limits for me to go online otherwise I will probably just want to go on it all the time. It helps me do other things like read a book or go and play outside. Mummy also has rules for herself and is also not allowed to use her phone at meal times.”

Five tips for a healthy screen time balance:

  • Lead by example – just like anything, children copy their parents’ actions and behaviour. If you set boundaries for your own screen, it will be easier for your kids to do the same.
  • Set boundaries WITH your kids. Get them involved in the process of setting age appropriate limits on how long they can spend online, at what times and on which
    platforms. Set up screen-free times or rooms where screens are out of sight and
    therefore more likely to be out of mind. Review these as they get older and give them
    the space to take greater responsibility for their screen use.
  • Ensure a healthy mix of screen activity – Make sure they have a good balance of screen activities that encourage creativity, learning & education, connecting with family & friends, as well as using devices for passively engaging with content.
  • Avoid using screen time as a Reward – This will elevate the status of screen time above other activities and like using food as a reward may encourage children to simply want more
  • Physical activity & sleep are really important – Make sure screens are not displacing these things by keeping screens out of bedrooms at bed time and that you are creating opportunities for your children to be active each day

For more age-specific advice to help children strike a healthy screen time balance, visit:

Notes for editors
*Research commissioned by Internet Matters, carried out by Trinity McQueen of 2,000 UK
parents of children aged four to 16.
**The ad was developed and produced for Internet Matters by creative experience agency,
Because –

About Internet Matters
Internet Matters ( is a not-for-profit, industry-funded members body that
helps families stay safe online, providing resources for parents, carers and educational
professionals. It was established in 2014 by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media and its
members include BBC, Google, Samsung, Three, Facebook, Huawei, ByteDance, Supercell
and ESET. It is a member of the Executive Board of UKCIS (UK Council for Internet Safety)
and an industry expert working with The Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of
Cyberbullying, founded by the Duke of Cambridge. It works with partners from across the
industry, government and third sector to raise awareness and provide advice on the issues
affecting children in the digital age, including cyberbullying, screen time, digital resilience,
extreme content, privacy and exploitation.

Media Contacts for Internet Matters
Sophie Willett
[email protected]
07955 376 591
Media line: 0203 7707612

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