21 Dec 2017

More than one in four teenagers – an estimated 866,000 young people in England and Wales - say they couldn’t enjoy Christmas without social media according to a new survey carried out for The Children’s Society.

Almost one in three, more than one million, said they thought it was getting harder to enjoy Christmas, while only 1 in 10 felt it was getting easier.

Many young people are left casting envious glances at their peers and people they follow, with 31%, almost a million, saying that social media use at Christmas makes them want more gifts and presents after having compared themselves to others.

One in five children think that friends on social media seem to be having a better Christmas than them.

However, 40 per cent felt that social media made them think more about those who are less fortunate than they are at Christmas time.

Nearly a third increase social media use

The poll of 1,010 13-17-year-olds, conducted by Research Now for The Children’s Society, found nearly a third (32%) increased their use of social media over Christmas, with only 8 per cent saying they spent less time on the online platforms.

Almost half (47%) of all young people said they didn’t spend enough time with friends during the Christmas break, with three quarters (76%) of those who use social media more at this time of year saying they did so to see what their school friends were doing over the holidays. Worryingly 13 per cent said they use social media more at Christmas to help them feel less alone, while 17 per cent do so to escape family stress and 32 per cent do so because they feel bored.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said: “Christmas can be a stressful time for everyone, including children. Many miss their friends whilst not at school and social media can represent an important lifeline to the outside world.

“Although social media can have many benefits, we know that overuse can be damaging to young people’s well-being and may harm their mental health.

“That is why parents need to be aware of what children are doing online and more needs to be done to raise awareness about how to minimise risks and help ensure use of social media is as positive an experience as possible.

“It is also absolutely vital that parents talk to their children, support them to see friends and encourage them to stay active.

“By doing so they can help them to overcome the stresses of the season and enjoy the festive spirit.

“There will however be many children this Christmas, with nowhere to turn, and at The Children’s Society we support thousands of these young people.  It is vital that more of them are able to access the support they need all year round.”

Decisive action

The Children’s Society is calling for tougher regulation and decisive action by social media companies to ensure the online world is safer for children and to minimise risks like cyber-bullying and online grooming.

It wants to see clearer child-friendly guidelines, better advice on blocking people and reporting issues, and quicker and more effective responses to reports of inappropriate behaviour and material.

Mr Reed added: “The Government must do its bit to make sure this happens, and we would urge it to listen to the voices of young people in developing its proposed Code of Practice for social media companies, which we would like to see in place as soon as possible.”

Media enquiries

For more information, please contact Senior Media Officer Rob Devey on 07814 525918 or rob.devey@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editor

  • 1,010 children aged 13-17 were polled in England and Wales between  7-12 December by Research Now.  National and regional estimates are based upon applying the results to statistics from the Office for National Statistics showing the number of 13-17-year-olds living in each region. We did not find any significant regional differences in the polling and so all areas are assumed to be nationally representative.
  • Other findings in the survey revealed that:

1) On a scale of 1-10, with 10 the happiest, on average the young people taking part in our survey scored their happiness at Christmas as 7.8, compared to the national average of 7.5 as calculated through our annual Good Childhood survey.

2) 32 per cent of those who used social media more at Christmas did so because they were bored at home.

3) 26 per cent of those who used social media more at Christmas did so because they wanted to share their experiences so their followers could see them.

4) 38% said using social media made Christmas more enjoyable.

  • The Children’s Society recently spoke to young people to ask them what advice they would offer peers struggling with social media and their mental health.  Tips included trying to avoid comparing themselves to others as social media posts are curated highlights of someone’s life and don’t show the reality of what someone is going through.  Other advice included talking to a family member, friend, teacher or helpline about any concerns, turning off notifications, checking privacy settings and blocking or reporting people if you need to.
  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services, volunteer with us, and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.
  • Research Now Group, Inc., is the global leader in digital research data for better insights and business decisions. Founded in 1999, the company was a pioneer in originating online data sampling and created the first B2B panel. The company provides world-class research data solutions that enable better decisions and better results for its 3,000-market research, consulting, media, and corporate clients through access to over 11 million deeply-profiled business professionals and consumers in more than 40 countries. Research Now operates globally with locations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, and is recognised as the quality, scale, and customer satisfaction leader in the market research industry. For more information, please go to www.researchnow.com.