“Parents don’t know what their children are doing on the internet”

“Parents don’t know what their children are doing on the internet”
Constant cell phone use impairs your ability to concentrate.
Image: Colourbox

Animal videos, sports challenges, current fashion and make-up trends or world events – all explained in just a few words: TikTok as a social network continues to fascinate young people and lure them in front of the screen. On average, eleven to 18-year-old TikTok users stare at their smartphones for more than an hour every day and swipe from one short video to another – 13 percent of users even spend more than three hours a day on the short video platform.

But it’s not just TikTok, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and many other apps and communication channels are part of young people’s everyday lives. The 2023 youth media study by the state of Upper Austria, carried out by the Education Group, shows how intertwined their real and digital lives have become.

Young people spend an average of 130 minutes on the internet every day – six minutes more than in the last survey in 2021. “The communication behavior of eleven to 18 year olds has changed significantly. Although, according to the survey, personal meetings with friends are still the case are indispensable for young people: The use of digital media has become their main occupation,” says Deputy Governor and Education Officer Christine Haberlander (VP).

While ten years ago the young people surveyed spent an average of 68 minutes on the Internet, their usage time has now almost doubled. This also affects family life, says Peter Eiselmair, Managing Director of the Education Group. “The media penetrates everyday life. This requires responsible behavior and strong role models. But very few parents can keep up with their children.”

“I’ll be home later,” “Can you pick me up?” – many of these messages are sent back and forth between children and parents every day. In the first youth media study in 2008, only a third of legal guardians believed that digital media could influence family life. More than two thirds of the parents surveyed are now convinced of this.

“One problem is that they usually don’t even know what their children are doing online. A third of eleven to 14 year olds keep secrets from their parents about their activities on social networks – the same applies to 15 to 18 year olds almost half,” said David Pfarrhofer at the presentation of this year’s study. “In the past, if the children were out and about for two hours, they would also be asked what they did or with whom. But when they use the Internet, they don’t ask questions. Around a third of young people are confronted with bullying on social media every day.”

Digitalization as a school task

Schools should also play an important role in this regard, says Upper Austria’s education director Alfred Klampfer, referring, among other things, to the new compulsory subject “Digital Basic Education” from secondary level I, which will be part of the curriculum at the start of the new school year. “I see it as the school’s responsibility not only to use apps in class, but also to teach students how to use them responsibly.”

In addition to the new compulsory subject, digital textbooks are also becoming more relevant. These have been increasingly incorporated into lessons since the corona pandemic, and educators have also advocated for this, says Klampfer. “The pandemic has had a lasting impact here.”

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