Gaming Addictions, Late Nights, and FOMO: How Are Girls Affected by the Internet?

A new report provides insight into the positive and negative experiences children face (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

From ‘fear of missing out’ to gaming ‘obsessions’, a new report has highlighted the many issues children still face in the internet age.

Being online has a significant impact on young people’s lives, playing an important role in shaping their behaviors and experiences.

Charity Internet Matters released the findings of a dedicated report that tracked children’s well-being in a digital world.

It was found that the negative effects on social well-being are particularly felt by girls aged 9 to 10 years.

The number of respondents who felt “fear of missing out” – more commonly known as FOMO – has doubled since last year.

Report results show that 45% of this age group now say they stay up late on digital devices (compared to 26% last year) and 49% say they repeat viewing programs or playing computer games even if they are not. enjoying it (compared to 34% last year).

In terms of body image and self-esteem, one in 10 also say that being online makes them worried about their body shape or size and 13% say it makes them jealous of other people.

It’s a situation many families can relate to.

Rebecca and Jonathan Fisher live in Norfolk with their children Elsa, 8, Cleo, 5, and Brody, 3.

Rebecca lives in Norfolk with her children Elsa, 8, Cleo, 5, and Brody, 3 (Photo: Internet Matters)

Rebecca lives in Norfolk with her children Elsa, 8, Cleo, 5, and Brody, 3 (Photo: Internet Matters)

The couple say their eldest daughter is anxious about feeling left out online and how too much screen time has affected her sleep and well-being.

Rebecca said: ‘All the kids Elsa’s age at school are connected online, mostly through gaming platforms, so I feel like I have to allow her to join in or she’d be the odd one out.

“Many of your peers have their parents buy additional features and add-ons for their games, which further creates a feeling of being left out for those who don’t have them.

“It’s very difficult because I don’t want her to be left behind socially, but I also don’t want it to take over her life. We’ve already spent around £50 on her games and I don’t want that to become the norm.

She added: “Elsa has seen us on our phones in bed since she was a baby, so it’s a challenge to explain why she shouldn’t do it herself.”

Rebecca has found that many other parents are struggling with the same issues with their children, but she says having open conversations can help.

As kids are now back in school full-time, Internet Matters found that technology use seems to have changed later in life, which in turn is affecting sleep.

In comparison, of the positive improvements reported in the report – titled Index of Children’s Well-Being in a Digital World – the most significant was the emotional well-being of boys.

Of this group, more than 50% fewer in 2023 say they worry about saying the wrong thing online (15% compared to 34% last year) and two-thirds fewer say they care about what people think of them online ( 7% compared to 21% last year).

This indicates that boys this age are more confident year after year in their online interactions and less concerned about how they are perceived by others.

The girls are battling the 'fear of missing out' (Photo: Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock)

The girls are battling the ‘fear of missing out’ (Photo: Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock)

The previous 2022 index also demonstrated how vulnerable young people were experiencing more negative impacts from being online.

This includes children with special educational needs, physical disabilities and mental health issues.

Child psychologist and Internet Matters ambassador Dr. Linda Papadopoulos says parents should be more aware of the psychological impacts the digital world has on their children.

She said: ‘This index once again highlights how important it is for parents to support their children as they navigate the digital world.

“Technology is becoming a bigger part of families’ lives and there are no signs that this will change, but parents, caregivers and professionals who support young people admit they struggle to keep up.

‘There needs to be additional support to facilitate open and honest conversations with children in order to improve their online well-being.’

In homes where children and parents say they often talk to each other about things that are important to them, children experience more positive effects and fewer negative effects on their well-being, the Index found.

This again points to the positive role that having meaningful conversations plays for children in relation to their digital life.

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, said: ‘The online world is changing rapidly and now, more than ever, it is vital to understand the influence of technology on children’s well-being and to assess the positives and negatives arising from the way they use and interact with the online world.

‘What parents do matters and so the clear priority must be to ensure they have the necessary skills, knowledge and support.

‘These findings will continue to provide valuable information to help us provide the most up-to-date and effective advice for parents and caregivers to help them better manage and support their children towards positive outcomes from their online lives.’

For more information on the Internet Matters ‘Child Well-Being Index in a Digital World’ and information on keeping your children safe online and step-by-step guides, visit

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