Digital isolation takes hold of UK kids

New research from Childwise reveals that time spent online by UK children continues to rise, but they are increasingly feeling alone and isolated.
January 30, 2019

The latest study from independent market researcher Childwise has found that the average time UK children ages five to 16 spent online in 2018 jumped to three hours a day—up from 2.7 hours in 2017.

Kids who are online for more than six hours per day posted the biggest increase, from 12% in 2017 to one in six (17%) last year. There’s also been a lift in the number of older kids who say they would spend all day on their connected devices if they could—the size of this faction of nine- to 16-year-olds is now at 29%, compared to 22% in 2017. And 29% of kids say they have missed sleep and felt tired because they’ve spent too long on their connected devices (up 5%).

Encouragingly, 26% of kids in the study said they would like to spend more time away from their connected devices, up from 22% in 2017. And this number increases with age—all the way up to 30% of 15- to 16-year-olds who would like to spend more time away from the internet and social media.

Despite being the most digitally connected generation ever, three in five kids (58%) ages nine to 16 experience feelings of loneliness, and this has increased 7% year-on-year.

According to the report, which explores the media consumption, purchasing and social habits of more than 2,000 UK kids, older girls are the most affected by feelings of anxiousness, isolation and general unhappiness. By age 15 and 16, 82% of girls feel lonely, versus 48% of boys—38% of girls this age feel lonely often, compared to half as many boys at 16%.

As for happiness, it declines faster amongst girls than boys starting at age 13. At age 13 and 14, girls are twice as likely to be unhappy (21%) than boys (11%).

Interestingly, three-quarters of “Generation Screen” are turning to traditional board and card games for fun, with one in five saying Monopoly is their favorite game. And despite an almost endless choice of TV shows available to them, NBC’s ’90s sitcom Friends was called out as kids’ favorite program most often due to its appealing “focus on friendships and relationships.” The show’s new popularity, according to Childwise, may also be due to its presence on Netflix.

But Friends aside, fewer children were able to name a favorite program, vlogger or comic, partly because of the huge choice of video content available and its transient nature.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at



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