Increased Screen Time Has a Damaging Impact on Britons Mental and Physical Health 

NortonLifeLock has released a new global study examining consumers’ at-home online behaviours. Findings from the UK portion of the research show that, while 69% of Brits surveyed say they try to limit their screen time by engaging in activities such as hiking or spending time with friends, over two in five agree that the amount of time they spend in front of a screen negatively impacts their physical (52%) and mental health (41%). Further, although increased screen time can also have negative impacts to online safety, one in five connected device owners (22%) have not taken action to protect themselves and their devices from potential cyber safety threats.

In the study conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 1,000 UK adults, half (51%) say the amount of time they spend in front of a screen aside of that for work and education purposes has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those who say their recreational screen use has increased significantly, about two in five say this has helped them to feel connected (44%) and that it has been their way to unwind (40%). However, about a third (34%) of this same group say increased screen time has made them less physically active, and one in five (20%) say it has made them feel bad about their body or damaged their self-esteem. Further emphasising the negative impacts felt as a result of the spike in screen time clocked by Britons, some note that their increased device usage during the pandemic has led them to experience increased anxiety or depression (13%) or has made them feel lonelier than ever before (11%).

“With Brits admitting to spending 5.5 hours a day looking at screens on top of the time they spend on devices for education or work purposes, it’s inevitable that excessive screen time is making many feel burnt out,” said Sarah Uhlfelder, Senior Strategic Director EMEA at NortonLifeLock. “Make no mistake, technology can and does bring a number of social and educational benefits and, over the past year, we even saw it become a lifeline for many. In the UK, one in five adults (21%) purchased a new smart home or connected device to help them and their family cope with the pandemic as lockdowns increased limitations to our social life and it somewhat virtualized. But, in an increasingly virtual world, adopting healthy screen time routines and digital safety habits is a vital part of daily life.”

“Beyond setting boundaries for device usage and screen time limits, people need to be wary of the risks they might be facing online, too. Being mindful of what you reveal about yourself online and exercising caution around potential scams, fraudulent sites or apps, paired with good password hygiene and device protection from a multi-layered security software like Norton 360, can go a long way in helping to keep you and your family safe online,” said Uhlfelder.

Additional findings from the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Home & Family include:

  • More than two in five Brits (46%) who have a social media account agree they overindulge in time spent on social media, with younger adults age 18-39 twice as likely as their older counterparts to agree (66% vs. 33% of those 40 and older). Millennials and Gen Zs are more likely to say the amount of time they spend in front of a screen negatively impacts their physical (66% aged 18-39 vs. 44% of those aged 40 and older) and mental health (64% vs. 30%). Of note, younger UK adults are also more likely than their older counterparts to admit they feel the negative effects of increased screen use during the pandemic, claiming that it has led them to experience anxiety or depression (17% vs. 9%), has hurt their self-esteem (17% vs. 6%) or has made them feel lonelier than ever before (16% vs. 7%).
  • Brits admit to owning an average of 5.5 connected devices. About seven in 10 UK adults (71%) own a smart home device, most commonly smart TVs (52%) and smart speakers/home assistants (33%).  
  • The majority of consumers (70%) believe it is at least somewhat likely for smart home devices to be hacked, but convenience and utility outweigh any security or privacy concerns when it comes to smart home devices. Consumers generally describe smart home devices as helpful (41%) and convenient (36%), but some find them to be a security risk (24%) and intrusive (22%). A few even describe smart home devices as not trustworthy (15%), creepy (12%), or scary (8%).
  • Despite being aware of security threats they might be facing, more than a third do not take additional security measures to secure their devices. 86% of Brits who own a connected device say that if one of their connected devices were hacked, they would take action – most commonly changing the security settings or passwords (53%). And while a majority (59%) are confident in their ability to check that smart home devices are secure, more than a third (35%) say they do not take any additional security measures to protect their smart home devices and rely solely on the security features built into the device.
  • No one action appears to be the “go-to” among those saying they have taken steps to secure their devices, indicating there’s room for consumer education around best practices for device security. Only around one in three deny permissions to apps on devices (37%), install cybersecurity software on their devices (33%), change the default passwords on devices (32%), or regularly update device passwords (30%). Also, just 31% of consumers who own a Wi-Fi router change their router password more than once a year, with close to two in five (42%) admitting they have never changed the password or are not sure how often the password is changed.
  • More than half of UK adults (55%) admit to using personal information in their password(s). The most common personally identifiable information consumers put in their passwords are their pet’s name (24%), their birthday (16%), their own name (12%) or their child(ren)’s name (10%).

There are a number of precautions that can help keep your smart devices secure, protecting yourself and your family from cyber threats. And while no one can prevent all cybercrime, these steps can empower you to live your life in the connected world more safely:

  • Be smart with your passwords. Use a complex password for each online account you have and update your passwords regularly. Strong passwords comprise a mixture of numbers, symbols, and letters in upper and lower case.
  • Protect your router to ensure your home network is safe. Set-up and/or change the default login and password information on your router and all the devices connected to your home network. An unsecured Wi-Fi router running on the default manufacturer settings could be a liability when it comes to hackers and Wi-Fi squatters accessing your private information and burdening your broadband. Also consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to access your network. VPNs provide a “secure tunnel” that encrypts data being sent and received between your device and the internet, keeping your most data secure from prying eyes.
  • Think before you click. Be suspicious about any unusual e-mails, texts or direct messages on social media and stay vigilant about any messages that specifically ask you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or require you to provide personal information.
  • Use a security software from a trusted, reputable brand.You can help protect your information online by using strong passwords, avoiding clicking on suspicious links and more, but it is essential to consider device protection from a multi-layered security software like Norton 360. Always make sure to keep your security software up-to-date and that your device’s operating system is running the latest version. This helps fix potential vulnerabilities on your devices and helps keep cybercriminals at bay.

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