Media release: 11 November 2017

Sixty per cent of parents never monitor their child’s social media account or use, but 15% of teens report being contacted by strangers daily, and 28.7% had been bullied on social media in the last 12 months, a new survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) reveals.

The Digital Me survey, to be released on 11 November for Psychology Week (November12-18), explored how social media and technology is affecting the wellbeing of Australians.  More than 1,000 adults and 150 teens aged 14 – 17 years were surveyed.

APS spokesperson, Dr Lyn O’Grady says the findings highlight the important role parents need to play in guiding their teens in the online world – particularly younger teens, who are still developing their ability to problem solve, communicate well and make judgements that keep them safe online.  

The Digital Me survey shows that 78.8% of teens are what psychologists would call highly involved with their mobile phone, and use social media throughout the day for an average of 3.3 hours, on five or more days in the week. 

“Social media is an asset for teens that are at a stage in their development where there is a strong need to reach out and communicate with others,” says Dr O’Grady.   “But they are less able to identify risks and more likely to act impulsively compared to adults, and need boundaries, rules and the guidance of parents to help them make good decisions – just as they do offline.”

Dr O’Grady says that many adults themselves struggled to manage the impact of technology in their own lives, with the survey finding that 54% are highly involved with their mobile phones, 20.9% have been bullied online, and 27% argued with a stranger online.  But she said parents modelling healthy technology use was one of the most powerful ways they could guide their own children.

Executive director of the APS, Lyn Littlefield said: “Social media use is increasingly central to the lives of Australians of all ages. Psychologists are increasingly interested in helping Australians acquire skills to avoid harm and thrive in their online lives.”

5 top skills teens need to know:

  • What they might say or do online which might offend or upset others and how to avoid this.
  • What content would negatively impact their reputation and their life if they posted it.
  • What to do when they feel angry, upset or worried about something they've seen or been involved in online.
  • Risks of communicating with people they don't know and what to do if they’re contacted.
  • What kind of online content they should avoid (e.g. violent), why and how to avoid this content.

5 areas to potentially have rules about:

  • What sites are accessed/games played.
  • What teens can say and what topics of conversation are okay online or in public posts, and which are not.
  • What teens can say/shouldn't say in private messaging online.
  • Who to talk to and in what context. 
  • Privacy setting for devices and apps.

The APS will release its Digital Me survey on 11 November for Psychology Week (12 – 18 November)
Link to survey: The survey is available for review under embargo

Compass for life: Resources for thriving in the digital age:  http://compassforlife.org.au/

APS tip sheets:

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

The Digital Me survey key findings will be released on Sunday 11 November, but will be available under embargo a few days prior.

For more information, or to receive the embargoed survey, call Rebecca Matthews on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email media@psychology.org.au.

The Digital Me survey was commissioned by the Australian Psychological Society and
the survey fieldwork was conducted by an independent research company, Forethought

Psychology Week is an annual initiative of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) that aims to increase public awareness of how psychology can help Australians lead healthier, happier and more meaningful lives.

In 2017 APS is continuing the Compass for Life campaign, to help Australians improve their happiness and wellbeing by promoting ways to thrive in the digital age.