Kids reeling as bullying, screen time take heavy toll

Adrian Black |

A survey of parents has revealed 51 per cent believe excessive screen time is affecting their kids.
A survey of parents has revealed 51 per cent believe excessive screen time is affecting their kids.

Bullying and too much screen time are a major cause of mounting mental health issues among children, sparking alarm for parents already struggling with cost-of-living pressures.

More than half of Australian parents are seriously concerned about their children’s mental health, a study has found.

Clinical psychologist and Beyond Blue senior adviser Luke Martin said parents were facing a myriad of challenges when it came to their children’s mental wellbeing.

Social media
Experts say children face many challenges when using social media. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

“Unfortunately, bullying is very common – one in four kids are affected by it,” Dr Martin said.

“Bullying can lead to kids feeling unsafe, isolated, sad or hopeless, which can have a huge impact on their mental health”.

An Ipsos poll of 1000 parents for Beyond Blue found more than half believed bullying (54 per cent) or screen time (51 per cent) were having an impact on their children.

Dr Martin said a sense of safety, connections with others and meaningful activities had a positive impact on kids’ mental health.

“When it comes to screen time, we know it’s okay in moderation, but excessive screen time means our kids aren’t spending time doing other things that are good for their mental health, like imaginative play with friends and spending time outdoors,” he said.

About one in three parents reported poor mental health, with cost-of-living pressures the number-one stress factor for two-in-three respondents, while half were struggling with a lack of time and one-in-three with work demands.

“Many parents are under significant strain, juggling demands to stay afloat,” Dr Martin said.

“We also know there’s a link between financial distress and mental health concerns that can impact the entire family.”

Pediatrician Harriet Hiscock, from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said about half of mental health conditions began in childhood, before the age of 14.

“So it’s important that parents recognise the signs early,” Professor Hiscock said.

“We know that getting support early can make a big difference in reducing the impact of a mental health condition on a child’s life.”

COVID-19 pandemic
A study has found the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to impact the lives of young Australians. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

A Monash University study also found the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect young people in NSW and Victoria.

The report was based on a national survey of 1500 young Australians aged 18 to 24 along with interviews between 2021 and 2023.

It found more than one-in-five (20.7 per cent in NSW, 31.1 per cent in Victoria) received mental health support in 2023 with most young people surveyed struggling financially during the three years and many having ongoing concerns about their education, job prospects and relationships.

Study co-author Lucas Walsh noted the pandemic was not over.

“Aside from continuing infections, many young people living in the two states that experienced the most serious lockdowns have been affected and scarred,” Professor Walsh said.

“The ripple effect, which is social, economic, psychological and political, is likely to shape, if not transform, a generation.”

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Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

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