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More than a quarter of 8 to 12-year-olds find it hard to switch off from smart devices

CyberSafeKids is running its third annual 24-hour ‘CyberBreak’ from 5pm today to 5pm tomorrow.

MORE THAN A quarter of children aged eight to 13 find it hard to switch off from their smart devices, a new survey has found. 

With the release of its latest survey, CyberSafeKids is running its third annual 24-hour ‘CyberBreak’ from 5pm today to 5pm tomorrow. 

The campaign is encouraging families and schools all over Ireland to participate in taking a break from the online world. Families are being encouraged to take the opportunity of having device-free time as a family, to discuss how they can find a healthy balance between their online and offline lives and make it a fun day. 

In its survey published today, CyberSafeKids asked over 3,150 children aged eight to 13 about their online habits. 

28% of children said they feel they spend too much time online. However, 39% said they don’t spend too much of their time online. 

A total of 27% of children said they find it hard to switch off from smart devices, games and apps. 

39% of children said they spend most of their time gaming, followed by 22% spending most of their time watching videos (such as on YouTube) and 17% spending most of their time using social media (such as Snapchat and TikTok). 

Only 3% of children said they spend time online creating things, for example on drawing apps, and just 3% said they use their time online to look up information. 

Almost the same percentage of eight-year-olds (17%) are using WhatsApp and iMessage as 12-year-olds (18%) and 13-year-olds (19%).

When CyberSafeKids looked at the gender dimension, it found that boys are much more likely to spend their time online gaming than girls (61% of boys compared with 19% of girls).

Recent CyberSafeKids research found that 95% of children aged eight to 12 own a smart device and 87% are signed up to social media and messaging apps.

Speaking about the CyberBreak campaign, CyberSafeKids CEO Alex Cooney said “it is not about calling out the internet as a negative force in our lives”. 

“On the contrary, the internet is a tremendous resource for all of us and in so many ways a huge asset to our lives,” Cooney said. 

“There is, however, plenty of evidence to show that it is also pervasive and all-consuming in terms of our time and attention and it can be really difficult to switch off,” he said.

Child psychologist Colman Noctor has emphasised the importance of monitoring quality screen time rather than just focusing on the length of screen time for children. 

“CyberBreak’s key message is so important, sometimes we need to take that time to reset the balance between our online and offline lives and this can be particularly the case for children’s wellbeing,” Noctor said.

“They are exposed to too much, too often and at too young an age. We need to shift that emphasis,” he said.

“Technology is not going anywhere, we just need to get better at taking back control of how much time we’re spending online and calling out the gaming and social media companies for using opaque practices for holding our attention.”

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