Published on August 25th, 2021 | by Andrew Bistak

Norton studies shows Australian adults feel the negative impact of increased screen time

NortonLifeLock (NASDAQ: NLOK), a global leader in consumer Cyber Safety, released a new global study examining consumers’ at-home online behaviours. The findings from the Australian study show that overall, 3 in 5 Australian respondents (62%) admit they spend way too much time looking at screens and nearly 2 in 5 (38%) feel they are addicted to screens.

In the study conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 1,000 Australian adults, half (50%) say the amount of time they spend in front of a screen aside from work and education purposes has increased significantly during the pandemic, and 1 in 5 (21%) say they have become addicted to being online because of the pandemic. Consumers have admitted to spending 5.4 hours a day in front of screens outside of work or education, and for many, it’s too much. When it comes to specific devices, smartphones are the device that Australian respondents most commonly believe they are spending too much time on (50%), especially younger adults aged 18-39 (71%).

Of those who say their recreational screen use has increased significantly during the pandemic, 91% say they have felt some sort of impact, some positive and some negative. Overall, more than half of all Australian adults (57%) agree that the amount of time they spend in front of a screen negatively impacts their physical health and 2 in 5 (41%) say it negatively impacts their mental health. However, 73% say they try to limit their screen time by engaging in other activities such as hiking or spending time with friends.

On average, Australian adults surveyed own 5 connected devices, and close to 1 in 5 (17%) say they have purchased a new smart home or connected device to help them cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of consumers surveyed believe it is at least somewhat likely for a number of connected devices to be hacked, with around half believing it is very or extremely likely that a computer (54%) or smartphone (44%) will be hacked. Surprisingly then, of Australian consumers who own connected devices, one-quarter (24%) have not taken any action to protect them.

“The Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report indicates that the pandemic has rapidly changed how we interact with technology, as the threats people face online also continue to change and evolve as threats such as FluBot, a mobile malware our researchers have tracked for months, begins to target Australians,” said Mark Gorrie, Senior Director, Asia Pacific, NortonLifeLock. “While technology has helped us navigate through an uncertain time, it’s important to take stock of your digital health. Maintain good digital hygiene like keeping your devices updated with the latest operating system, using strong passwords combined with multi-factor authentication and using comprehensive security will help keep your devices and data safe.”

Norton offers a number of products to help families stay safe online, including Norton Mobile Security, which provides powerful, multi-layered protection for Android and iOS devices and Norton Family, which helps parents monitor and manage their children’s online activities.

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

  • Australian adults surveyed feel the negative impact of increased screen time. 1 in 5 (20%) say it has made them feel bad about their body or hurt their self-esteem. Further, more than 1 in 10 individuals note that increased screen time during the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health (17%), has led them to experience increased anxiety or depression (14%) and has made them feel lonelier than ever before (13%).
  • Consumers are reactive when it comes to their digital safety. If one of their connected devices were hacked, the overwhelming majority of adults surveyed who own a connected device (88%) say they would take action, most commonly changing the security settings or passwords (55%).
    • Further, one-third say they would reset the device (i.e., remove all personal data/reset to default) (33%) or would install security software or increase pre-existing security software (33%). Around one-quarter say they would search online for help (27%), restart the device (22%) or ask family members and friends for help (22%).
  • Convenience and utility outweigh any security concerns when it comes to smart home devices. About 2 in 3 Australian adults surveyed (66%) own a smart home device, most commonly smart TVs (56%) and smart speakers/home assistants (22%).
    • While consumers generally describe smart home devices as convenient (38%) and helpful (35%), some find them to be a security risk (29%) and intrusive (21%). A few even describe smart home devices as not trustworthy (18%), creepy (15%), or scary (10%).
  • Australians surveyed think conversations about online safety should start young. 86% believe it is absolutely essential or very important for parents to teach their children about Cyber Safety (i.e., ways to protect themselves and their information online), with 53% believing it is absolutely essential. Further, nearly all (96%) agree that it is more important now than ever before for parents to talk to their children about cyber safety.
    • Still, whether these conversations happen or not, 4 in 5 (79%) concede it is difficult for parents to keep children safe when they are online.

These new findings serve as a second addendum to the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report (NCSIR) examining the impact of cybercrime, in addition to the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Online Creeping uncovering consumers’ online creeping behaviours. Conducted in partnership with The Harris Poll, the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Home & Family surveyed more than 8,000 adults aged 18+ across eight countries[1] including 1,003 Australian adults to assess consumers’ at-home online behaviours.

[1] Australia, France, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States.

About the Author

When he's not trying to save the world, Andrew enjoys travel (although loathes turbulence), going to the movies, reading and being a dad to his two dogs (and now twins) with his wife.

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