Research: Aussie kids spending more time online

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Research from Roy Morgan shows that in the Covid-19-impacted 2020, Young Australians aged 6-13 spent an average of almost 16 hours a week online, including 11 hours a week on the Internet at home, up 0.9hrs from two years ago.

With detailed research into the lives of over 2,000 young Australians each year, Roy Morgan’s Young Australian Survey has been measuring the changing activities, tastes and opinions of Aussie kids for many years, an invaluable resource for both retailers and parents keen to ensure they know what younger children and teens want.

After a year when many kids spent considerable time at home during a nation-wide lockdown in March/April/May 2020 and an extended lockdown for Victorian kids from July – October these results won’t be a surprise to anyone. However, these results are a continuation of trends seen over the last decade with time spent on the Internet increasing at the expense of other activities such as socialising with friends, playing sport and even time spent watching TV and listening to the radio.

Kids are now spending more time on the Internet at home than watching TV (9.6 hours) or playing with/talking to friends (8.1 hours) – both of which have declined in popularity since 2018.

When the time that Young Australians spend on the Internet at school (3.4 hours) and elsewhere (1.4 hours) is taken into account they spend an average of 15.8 hours on the Internet in an average week – up 1.5 hours from two years ago.

Also notable for the health of Australian kids is that they’re spending more time playing computer/electronic games, 6.2 hours (up 1.1hrs since 2018) than the time they spend playing sport, 4.1 hours (down 0.5hrs).

Kids were also saddled with an increasing level of homework in 2020 and spent 3.1 hours a week on homework, an increase of 0.2 hours from 2018. Other activities Australian kids spend time on during the week include an average of 1.8 hours listening to the radio and 1.3 hours watching videos/DVDs – although time spent on these activities has dropped over the last two years.

Analysing activities by age groups shows watching TV is the top activity for 6-9yr olds ahead of using the Internet at home, playing with or talking to friends and playing computer/electronic games.

For older kids, aged 10-13, using the Internet at home is easily the number one activity, ahead of watching TV, playing with or talking to friends and playing computer/electronic games.

Kids aged 10-13 spend more time in an average week listening to radio, reading magazines, playing sport, playing computer/electronic games and doing homework than younger kids aged 6-9.

Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan, says Covid-19 had an undeniably large impact on the way all of us spent our time during 2020 – particularly during the nation-wide lockdown and for Victorians during the long second lockdown as well. “The Covid pandemic and associated restrictions has accelerated trends we have seen for some time in our ‘Time Spent on Activities for Young Australians’ data. Time spent using the Internet at home in an average week has increased to 11 hours (up 0.9hrs from 2018) and including using the Internet at school and elsewhere this increases to 15.8 hours a week.

“There was less time spent on other major activities in 2020 including watching TV on 9.6 hours (down 0.5hrs from 2018), playing with/ talking to friends on 8.1 hours (down 2hrs), playing sport on 4.1 hours (down 0.5hrs) and listening to radio on 1.8 hours (down 0.5hrs).

“It is tempting to look at these findings and put these movements down to the impact of Covid-19 on lifestyles during 2020 and assume there will be a ‘bounce-back’ of sorts during 2021 and once the pandemic is truly over. However, that ignores the fact these are long-term trends and there is no reason to believe the trends of the last decade are about to end anytime soon.

“Covid-19 has impacted all of us to varying degrees and perhaps the biggest impact will be on Young Australians who have their whole lives ahead of them and who’s view of the world is being shaped and developed during this stressful and unprecedented global pandemic.

“Certainly, schooling during 2020 represented a huge change for many with Australian kids forced to learn from home during much of the year and time outside to socialise and nurture connections with friends was heavily restricted.

“The concern is that the increasing attachment Young Australians have to the Internet, social media, and always being connected online at the expense of getting outside and playing with friends or playing sport is leading to a decline in the mental health of younger Australians.

“Roy Morgan has done extensive research into the mental health of Australians including the leading causes of poor mental health outcomes – anxiety, stress and depression. This research shows that those young adults spending more time than others on social media have poorer mental health including higher anxiety, while those playing teams sports report lower levels of anxiety, stress and depression than those who don’t. See more on this research here: Youth mental health impacted by social media, religious beliefs, living arrangements and team sport.”


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