Number of young teens in London who play outside or get enough sleep has dropped sharply

Survey reveals transformation of London childhoods in a digital world

The number of young teenagers in London who play outside or get enough sleep has dropped sharply in comparison to teenagers from previous decades, a startling new survey from Barnardo’s reveals.

The study found just over half (55 percent) of the capital’s 13 to 15-year-olds play outdoors compared to more than three quarters (77 per cent) of adults when they were the same age.

And less than half (45 per cent) of young teenagers in London today believe they get sufficient sleep, against nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of adults when they were younger.

The YouGov survey for the children’s charity of more than 2,300 people in the UK, including more than 230 in London, reveals the pronounced effects – both good and bad – that the rapid growth of digital in recent years is having on young lives.

Access to the internet helps four fifths (86 per cent) of the capital’s young teenagers to do their schoolwork, compared with one fifth (20 per cent) of adult Londoners when they were the same age.

And nearly half (48 per cent) of London youngsters aged 13-15 said they had communicated with a stranger on social media.

The poll results coincide with the release of Childhoods in a Digital World, a paper by Barnardo’s that examines both the challenges and opportunities to children from the rapidly evolving technological world.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “This survey shows how quickly the growth of digital is changing our children’s behaviour.

“Whilst it’s fantastic that new technologies are broadening horizons and providing new opportunities, it’s vital we stay ahead of the digital curve to anticipate the problems it poses to future generations.

“To help children thrive in this brave new world, we need to equip them with the skills and knowledge to navigate this digital landscape.”

The study underlines the growing influence of social media and digital devices on relationships.

Almost as many young teenagers or their friends in London have dumped a boyfriend or girlfriend by text message or on WhatsApp (39 per cent) as have done so in person (50 per cent). Nearly one in four (25 per cent) had done so on Snapchat.

The poll confirms the dwindling popularity of the disco and the youth club to meet new people.

None of the 13-15 year olds surveyed in London said they had met new people at a disco and just eight per cent per cent said they had done so at a youth club. By contrast 27 per cent of adult Londoners met new people at a disco when they were young teenagers and the same number (27 per cent) did so at a youth club.

However, the young teenagers of today are more likely than previous generations to confide in their parents, friends and teachers when they have a difficult or embarrassing issue.

Almost two thirds (64 per cent) of 13 to 15-year-olds in the capital olds said they would talk to a parent, two-thirds (63 per cent) also would to a friend and almost a quarter (22 per cent) to a teacher. For London adults when they were that age, it was 32 per cent, 61 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

And while 15 per cent of London adults would not have felt able to seek help when they were young teenagers, just eight of those aged 13-15 today said they would not ask for advice and support.

The growing aversion of young teenagers to play outdoors is underlined by their choice of favourite toys, which are dominated by digital device such as iPhones, iPads and Xboxes. By contrast, many adults cited bicycles, roller skates, footballs and space hoppers as their favourite possessions when they were aged 13-15.

Other UK-wide findings from the survey include:

Almost seven in ten (69%) of girls aged 13-15 take selfies
Four out of five (80%) young teenage boys play online games at home or a friend’s house
Barely two-fifths (42%) of young teenage boys read books compared to 73% of male adults when they were aged 13-15
More than half (55%) of adults sent postcards when they were aged 13-15 against 11% of today’s young teenagers
As young teenagers, almost a fifth (18%) of those now aged 35-44 said that they would have sought advice on difficult or embarrassing issues from magazine agony aunts. Just 4% of today’s young teenagers look for help from magazines.


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