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“What parents often assume is a benign pastime is their main waking activity and the sheer amount of time that children spend at screens can lead to increased risk of physical disease as well as psychosocial issues.” The survey, which is believed to be the first to involve both children and parents, found that one in seven under-16s are so addicted to the web that they spend four hours or more glued to the screen.More than a third begin to feel “angry and grumpy” if they cannot get online whilst one in five expressed concerns that they spend more time in the virtual world than with real people.One factor behind the substantial growth among younger adults is their use of mobile dating apps.About one-in-five 18- to 24-year olds (22%) now report using mobile dating apps; in 2013, only 5% reported doing so.But it still means that one-third of online daters have not yet met up in real life with someone they initially found on an online dating site.One-in-five online daters have asked someone else to help them with their profile.
To be sure, many people remain puzzled that someone would want to find a romantic partner online – 23% of Americans agree with the statement that “people who use online dating sites are desperate” – but in general it is much more culturally acceptable than it was a decade ago.
More than one in ten admitted viewing suicide sites and child abuse images.
Almost one in five admitted that had “thought about” trying what they had seen online but 98 per cent of parents who knew their children had accessed inappropriate material had no idea they had been influenced by it.
Overall, most parents remain heavily in favour of web use with over half supporting it for homework and 82 per cent stating that their child had developed “great computer skills” which will help their future job prospects.
More than a third said the web meant their children knew far more about they world than they did at the same age.
Online dating use among 55- to 64-year-olds has also risen substantially since the last Pew Research Center survey on the topic.