Parents reveal how tech has helped their kids through lockdown

Parents believe their children’s reliance on technology during the pandemic has left a positive mark on their lives – yet admit they now need to catch up on dealing with the increased risks and harms, a new report from Internet Matters reveals today.

  • Internet Matters launches a new report – From Survive to Thrive: Supporting digital family life after lockdown – giving a unique view into how the family relationship with technology has changed through the ups and downs of lockdown
  • Nearly 8 out of 10 parents agree that the internet has had a positive impact on how their children learned and socialised – yet parents report the amount of harm that children experienced has increased
  • Since January 2020, parents reported a 42% increase in viewing content promoting self-harm or suicide and a 39% increase in sharing sexual images
  • Overwhelmingly, the report found that children with vulnerabilities, in particular, have been disproportionately affected by the impact of lockdown

Parents believe their children’s reliance on technology during the pandemic has left a positive mark on their lives – yet admit they now need to catch up on dealing with the increased risks and harms, a new report from Internet Matters reveals today.

The report – From Survive to Thrive: Supporting digital family life after lockdown – provides a unique view into how families’ relationship with technology has evolved from the pre-pandemic world, through the ins and outs of lockdown and into “a new way of living virtually”.

A study of over 2,000 UK parents* found more than half (56%) believed their children’s online world had a positive impact on their lives since the pandemic began. Eight out of 10 (80%) agreed technology was a good tool for online learning and 78% can see the positive impact on their children’s ability to socialise, stay connected, and be entertained. Encouragingly, 60% became more involved in their children’s online activities.

However, it came at a price of increased risks and added concerns, as parents have reported a rise in both their children’s experience of online harms and their own levels of concern. Since January 2020, parents reported a 42% increase in viewing content promoting self-harm or suicide content, a 39% increase in sharing sexual images, and a 33% increase in spending money online.

The largest increases in online activities parents report over the last year have been in live streaming – with children either watching live broadcasts (43% increase year on year) or actively broadcasting their own videos, an 89% increase year on year with one in six of all children participating on platforms such as YouTube Live and Facebook Live.

Parental concern about cyberbullying increased by 24% compared to pre-pandemic levels, whilst concern about exposure to fake news and misinformation, content promoting self-harm, and suicide also increased, particularly for parents of children with vulnerabilities. As a result, parents are now demanding more support as we transition out of lockdown and adjust to a new way of living virtually.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of parents have told us that they now require some type of help with thinking about their children’s tech usage, the most needed advice on how to rebalance the amount of screen time their children have as more than half of parents (53%) agree that their child has become too reliant on online technology.

Throughout the report, there is further confirmation that children with vulnerabilities have been disproportionately affected by the impact of lockdown. Parents reported a 40% increase in their vulnerable child’s experience of peer pressure to do things online they wouldn’t normally do, a 50% increase in fraud and identity theft, and a 37% increase in suffering damage to their reputation due to their online activity. In addition, nearly a quarter (23%) report that their child was bullied online in the last year, compared to 10% of non-vulnerable children.

An overwhelming need for support is felt amongst the parents of children with vulnerabilities, who want to address their children’s increased levels of anxiety (29%) after a year of isolation, after nearly half (47%) report that their child has become more anxious as a result of spending more time online over the last 12 months, compared to 28% of children without vulnerabilities.

Like all children, those with vulnerabilities often rely on the internet to connect, have fun and escape the labels and issues they encounter offline – despite the online risks they face nearly three-quarters (77%) of parents say the internet has been a lifeline for their child with vulnerabilities during the pandemic.

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, ambassador of Internet Matters, said: “As children have come to rely on technology more than ever during the pandemic, and therefore spending sometimes several hours a day online, it also gives them increased exposure to all of the risks that go with it.

“It’s fantastic to see so many more parents have now got more involved in their children’s life but it’s important they keep this up as we come out of lockdown and make it normality. It’s a great opportunity to close the knowledge gap between parents and kids when it comes to devices, apps, and games – yet parents need to seek out the right help to do this.”

Carolyn Bunting, Chief Executive of Internet Matters, said: “This report highlights not just all the risk and harms that can occur online, but acknowledges that it has played a vital role for our children in lockdown. Where would we have been without it?

“However, it does also bring up the need for more support for parents as they battle to keep on top of a rapid change in the pace of technology.

“We also find that the nation’s vulnerable children have been of the greatest concern, which is why we’re campaigning for children and young people with vulnerabilities to be routinely asked about their online lives. We know that a child’s online risk can be predicted depending on the nature of their offline vulnerability, so there needs to be that regular dialogue so the risks can be tackled at the earliest point.”

For more information and resources on keeping children and young people safe online, www.internetmatters.org/hub/from-survive-to-thrive-report

*Internet Matters has surveyed c.8,000 parents since the start of last year. c.2,000 in January 2020, May 2020, October 2020 and March 2021. Surveys are conducted by an independent research agency Opinium with no overlap in the parents spoken to over a 12-month period. Fieldwork for each wave takes around a week to complete all interviews. Where comparisons are made from before the pandemic and afterwards, these are taken from Jan-20 and Mar-21 datasets.
About Internet Matters
Internet Matters (internetmatters.org) 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, Facebook, Huawei, Barclays Digital Eagles, ByteDance, Supercell and ESET. It is a member of the Executive Board of UKCIS (UK Council for Internet Safety), where it leads the working group for vulnerable users and was a member of 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 Contact for Internet Matters
Katie Louden
[email protected]
Mobile: 07850428214

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