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Children and teenagers
online 2021

A moderate amount of screen time is good, adults and platforms can do more to support

Tele2's survey “Children and teenagers online 2021” shows that up to three hours of screen time a day has positive effects for children. Social media and videos more often lead to reduced well-being, while games, movies and series do not have to have the same effect. Meanwhile, children demand better support from platforms and adults for a safer everyday life online.

For the fourth consecutive year, Tele2 has released the report “Children and teenagers online”. This time one thousand Swedish children, 9-17 years old, and one thousand Swedish parents were asked about children's online habits and how they experience their time online. On average, nine year old children spend about two hours a day online, while seventeen year old teenagers spend more than four hours a day online. The report shows clear benefits of children's increasingly connected everyday life, but also points out problems and areas where the adult world can contribute more to giving children a safer online everyday life. 

- It is clear that the tech giants need to contribute more to a safer life for children online. For example, many children asks for the opportunity to report content that is not okay, but few actually report. Either it is too difficult to find the functions, or they simply do not believe that the platforms take reports seriously.

Viktor Wallström, EVP Communications and Sustainability at Tele2. 

Summary of the findings

A moderate amount of screen time contributes well-being according to both children and parents

  • Up to three hours of screen time can have a positive impact on children's well-being regarding, for example, social interaction, performance at school, minor conflicts at home and general well-being with life.
  • The more screen time, the greater the risk that children themselves, or their parents, experience that they feel bad. This applies to all aspects that have been investigated, but mainly affects sleep and mental health.

Social media a bigger problem than gaming

  • The survey shows a clear pattern: platforms for short videos (eg Youtube) and social media (eg Tiktok, Snapchat) are more likely to contribute to decreased well-being.
  • At the same time, gaming, movies and series have a lower risk of contributing to decreased well-being.
  • More than every other girl compares herself to others' “perfect lives” on the internet, while only a quarter of boys do so.

To some extent, parents are worried about the wrong issues

  • Parents generally worry more about boys' time online and are relatively worried about gaming, something which boys spend much more time on compared to girls.
  • At the same time, girls spend more time online in general and spend a large part of that time on activities that to a much greater extent risk contributing to poorer well-being - social media and platforms with short clips.

Children see both the positive and negative sides of the Internet

  • Among the aspects that children appreciate most online are the possibility to keep in touch with family and friends, as well as access to information and news.
  • The biggest problems children see are that people are mean to each other online, false information and that its difficult to determine which sources are trustworthy. 
  • One in ten children has experienced an unknown person wanting to video chat with them. One in ten girls has experienced an unknown person asking to meet them in real life. The same amount of girls has been asked to send pictures or videos on themselves undressed.

Children demand better tools and information

  • Half of the children ask for clear information on how to report what is not okay. Almost as many want children and young people to gain knowledge about their rights and obligations online.
  • Despite the above, only fifteen percent have ever reported something to an app or platform. Only one in four has talked to their parents about something bad they experienced.

Tele2 calls on parents and tech giants

  • Parents do not have to be afraid to set rules. Very few children and teenagers think they have too tough rules at home, while children themselves see problems with too much screen time. Discuss with both boys and girls and set rules together!
  • Despite the fact that children spend increasingly more time online, many parents are not involved in that part of their children's lives. Try to get involved and understand. Make it feel natural to talk about experiences online - both good and bad. 
  • Tech giants must take greater responsibility for the impact their platforms have on children. When children who spend more time on a platform also feel worse, something must be done. Above all, girls spend time on the platforms that can have a negative impact on well-being and very many girls compare themselves with others' "perfect lives".
  • The platforms' report functions are either too difficult to use or not taken seriously - the functions are not used by children and teenagers. Tech giants that make money from visiting children and teenagers must also ensure functions that can be used by their visitors, and it is the platforms' reponsibility to make sure their target audience trust in their solutions.