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How young people in Northern Ireland spend their time online

Published: 25th July 2019

During our recent Northern Ireland Digital Leaders Regional Event we asked several questions to the young people in attendance during our ‘Thought Wall’ activity. Zahra, a Digital Leader from Sarah Bonnell School, summarised the answers while she was with us on work experience.

If you could change one thing about the internet what would it be?

By far the most popular answer was to “make it safer” which shows how passionate young people are about online safety. Two other interesting answers were “more consequences for online hate” and “harsher punishment for online crimes” showing that the pupils were dwelling on the repercussions of people’s actions online and also thinking about long-term changes that could be made.

What is one thing you wish your parent/carers knew about life online?

The most common answer here was “make sure they know how to use it” which highlights the fact that many young people today grow up with the internet being an integral part of their lives, while many parents/carers will have only started using it regularly later in life so can have some catching up to do! A particularly constructive answer was “devices can also help you, not just harm you” which touches on some of the fears parents/carers can have over the threats that connected devices can pose, while recognising that there are many positives too.

Students answering questions

What is your favourite YouTube channel?

We had a wide range of responses to this one, with the channel categories ranging from history to lifestyle and makeup to international travel. It’s heartening to see how YouTubers can inspire their viewers to aspire to do great things.

How long do you spend online each day?

Most pupils claimed to be spending between 2 and 6 hours online every day, with only one saying that they spend no time online. One pupil claimed to spend 24 hours online every day!

What are your favourite games to play on a device?

The popular answers were all here, including FIFA, Roblox and Minecraft, as well as a few with older age ratings. We also had a couple of surprises including Portal 2 and Go Fish. The variety of answers shows a good mix of co-operation, competition, problem-solving and creativity.

Students with answers

How do you know when you’ve been online for too long?

Many of the common signs were highlighted here, with the most common being “sore eyes” closely followed by “when your battery runs out.” If you experience any signs that you have been online for too long, it can be a good idea to set yourself some time limits and do some of the things you enjoy offline, like reading, spending time outside, doing something creative or playing board games.

What is your most used app or website?

Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok were among the most popular answers. Digital Leaders, please do get involved in the community part of our platform and let us know what your most used apps or websites are.

What advice do you have for getting a healthy balance of online and offline time?

The most common response to this question was “limit your screen time.” A few pupils also mentioned “take a break” and “prioritise real life rather than online life” which are both good tips for managing your online time. One student also suggested “keep a schedule” which is a great idea for those who are more comfortable with a set routine. It’s also a good idea to set reminders and timers, as you can easily lose track of time when you’re online.

Students taking the lead

Thank you to the pupils, teachers and chaperones who attended our Northern Ireland Regional Event, and thank you for your contribution in this ‘thought wall’ exercise. Your insights will be used to shape our platform for future Digital Leaders.