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Teens trying to cut back on smartphone use

A quarter of Finnish middle school pupils say they've tried to spend less time on their phones, but failed.

Nuoret tutkivat kännyköitään.
Many young people say they'd rather spend more time with others without devices. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

In general, teens in Finland are aware that excessive smartphone use has a detrimental effect on their concentration and sleep patterns. A new media survey by the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (MLL) indicates that about one third of them would actually like to cut back on time spent online or using some specific online service.

Social media apps have become such an important part of social interaction for teens that most find it difficult to ignore their phones. One out of four pupils of middle school age said that they tried, but had been unsuccessful spending less time engaged on their devices.

MLL Media Education Planner Noora Järvi said that there is a lot of social pressure on young people to be active and constantly available on various platforms.

Many young people themselves say that they would prefer to spend time with others without handhelds. However, some admit that they find it easier to communicate electronically than face-to-face.

"It's a good thing that we are able to communicate better than in the past, but meeting people face-to-face can start to feel difficult, and so they don’t necessarily speak directly to others as much. That is, unless it's a best friend, or someone else quite close," Järvi explained.

Against online bullying

Few teens appear unable to reduce time spent with social media all by themselves. A common decision among friends to do so is what works best.

As one teen responding to the survey put it, "It would be great if everyone used their phones less, because if I cut back on my own use and no one else does, there is no reinforcement effect. It's annoying when you can't think of anything else to do together than sit around and spend time on your phones."

Young people are unanimous about dealing with the biggest problem created by the internet - they want to eliminate online bullying.

Teens in the MLL survey backed the idea that adults should supervise net use and react to offensive behaviour. They are also aware of their own responsibility. Survey responses repeatedly stressed the hope that everyone would give serious thought to how they treat others online.

Around 1,500 young people took part in the MLL online survey. Most respondents were of middle school age, but also included some elementary and secondary school pupils.

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