Half of teenagers believe that social media and the internet makes them feel less lonely while only a quarter of their parents agree, a study has revealed.
However, parents felt lonelier than their teenage children – which experts said may be impacting how they advise and talk to their children about the issue. Over a quarter of parents said they felt lonely often, always or some of the time, compared to just one in five young people.
The top four causes of youth loneliness, according to both parents and teenagers, were issues relating to money, trust, friendships and shyness. Teenagers said they often could not afford to join in expensive activities planned by friends, while not being able to talk openly with peers and family, as well as having unreliable friends, were also major causes of loneliness for youngsters. According to TalkTalk’s Teenage Loneliness and Technology Report, there is a stark divide within families over the role technology can play in either improving or worsening feelings of loneliness in teenagers.
Tristia Harrison, chief executive of TalkTalk, said: “I am heartened to see that technology can, in many cases, help tackle feelings of loneliness in young people. It is also clear that open and regular communication between parents and their teenagers on this topic cannot be underestimated.
“As the technology constantly evolves, it presents new issues and challenges. As an industry, we must continually reassess what more we can be doing to understand and mitigate online risks, so our young people have the best possible experience online.”
The report reveals that the majority of parents worry about their teenagers’ use of technology, yet over a third felt ill-equipped or are simply unsure how to help manage or navigate their teenagers’ tech and online use safely. This lack of confidence is leading to inaction among parents.
Carolyn Bunting, chief executive of online safety charity Internet Matters, said: “The research reiterates how teenagers don’t differentiate between their online and offline world and they turn to devices to help them feel connected and supported.
“By being in tune with their child’s digital life, parents can feel empowered to help them take advantage of all the opportunities that the online world has to offer.
“Having regular, open and honest conversations and getting to grips with the tech they’re using, is the easiest way for parents to create an effective and positive online environment for their children.”