Year 2 report of Children’s Wellbeing in a Digital World Index released

5 children sitting on a windowsill looking at their individual smartphones.

Positive effects of being online have reduced for UK children since last year according to latest Internet Matters’ Digital Wellbeing Index.


  • The second annual Index measuring Children’s Wellbeing in a Digital World shows just 3 out of 16 metrics have improved as reported by both children and their parents
  • For developmental and social wellbeing, the positive effects on children from their technology use are significantly less this year for UK children aged 9-15
  • Negative effects on social wellbeing are particularly dramatic for girls aged 9-10, with the number reporting experience of FOMO having doubled
  • Negative effects on children’s physical wellbeing are greater with a 19% increase in children staying up late on devices
  • Parents are less positive than their children, believing their children are experiencing fewer of the benefits of digital use compared to last year

Internet Matters today launches the year two report from the first ever Index to track children’s wellbeing in a digital world, which reveals the positive effects of being online has reduced for children aged 9-15 in the space of a year.

Being online has a significant impact on the lives of children and young people, playing a major role in shaping their behaviour and experiences. The Internet Matters ’Children’s Wellbeing in a Digital World Index’ identifies four dimensions of wellbeing (developmental, emotional, physical, and social) which are most impacted by digital participation and considers both the positive and negative outcomes for each.

With research conducted by Revealing Reality, the first ever Index was published in early 2022, with the second annual Index providing comparative data indicating changes and possible emerging trends.

The changes in developmental and social wellbeing seem to indicate a post-Covid trend where technology is facilitating learning and socialising to a lesser degree than it was when pandemic restrictions were in place. As children are now back in school full-time their technology use appears to have been shifted later into the evening, which in turn is impacting their sleep and physical wellbeing.

Younger girls aged 9-10 in particular are experiencing much greater negative impacts on their social and physical wellbeing year on year.

Findings from the Index show that 45% of this age group now say they stay up late on digital devices (compared to 26% last year) and 49% say they repeat watch programmes or play computer games even though they aren’t enjoying them (compared to 34% last year).

The number of 9-10-year-old girls who say they get upset if they miss out on what’s happening with their friends on social media has doubled year on year (from 16% to 32%) and is higher than any of the other age groups.

In terms of body image and self-esteem, one in 10 also say that being online makes them worried about their body shape or size and 13% say it makes them jealous of other people.

This may be a worrying outcome of younger girls becoming more active on messaging and social media platforms, as the age at which children get their first device is ever younger. Internet Matters data shows that 56% of 9–10-year-old girls said they were using social media, with significant numbers also using platforms only intended for children aged 13+ (48% WhatsApp; 41% TikTok; 26% Snapchat; 15% Instagram).

In comparison, of the positive improvements reported in the Index, the most significant was the emotional wellbeing of boys, particularly those aged 15. 

Of this group, over 50% less this year say they worry about saying something wrong online (15% compared to 34% last year), and two thirds less say they worry about what people think of them online (7% compared to 21% last year). This points to boys of this age being more confident year on year in their online interactions and less worried about how they are perceived by others.  

The previous 2022 Index also demonstrated how vulnerable children were experiencing more of the negative impacts of being online, with this view of vulnerability including children with special educational needs, physical disabilities, and mental health concerns.  

This year, children in financially disadvantaged homes show a very similar profile – with children who get free school meals experiencing more negative impacts on their wellbeing across all dimensions.  

The Index also shows the role of parents is crucial in regard to children’s wellbeing. In households where children and parents say they often talk to each other about things that are important to them, children experience more positive and fewer negative effects on their wellbeing. This again points to the positive role that having meaningful conversations has for children in relation to their digital life.   

Child psychologist and Internet Matters ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos believes helping parents be more aware of the psychological impacts the digital world has on their children is a crucial part of protecting their wellbeing.  

Wellbeing Index 2023 report

Our Digital Wellbeing Programme explores the impact of the online world on children and young people.

Text reads 'Children's Wellbeing in a Digital World, Year Two, Index Report 2023.' The Internet Matters and Revealing Reality logos sit underneath. On the right is an image of 5 children on smartphones.


Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “This Index once again highlights how important it is for parents to support their children as they navigate the digital world. Tech is becoming a larger part of families lives and there is no sign that this is going to change but parents, carers and professionals supporting young people admit that they struggle to keep up. There needs to be additional support to facilitate open and honest conversations with children in order to improve their wellbeing online.”

Carolyn Bunting, CEO at Internet Matters, said: “Our Index was conceived so we could track the effect of technology on children’s wellbeing year-on-year against this background of new developments in both the digital world and the lives of families in the UK.

“The online world is rapidly changing and now, more than ever, it is vital to understand the influence of technology on children’s wellbeing, and to assess both the positives and negatives arising from the ways they use and interact with the online world. Last year, the Index set a benchmark and this year, we are excited to be able to share the first set of comparative data.

“What parents do matter, and so the clear priority must be on ensuring they have the skills, knowledge and support needed. These findings will continue to provide valuable insight to help us provide the most up-to-date and effective advice for parents and carers to help them best manage and support their children towards positive outcomes from their online lives.”

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