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Social media tops NI parenting 'worry list' according to new survey

Parents have expressed particular concerns about their children's use of smart phones and social media

WORRIES over social media and mental health are the two biggest issues parents in Northern Ireland are struggling with according to the results of Parenting NI's second Big Parenting Survey.

The parenting charity surveyed 1,358 parents across the north and found that 69 per cent of parents are more worried than hopeful about parenting in the future – a three per cent increase compared to 2018's figures.

Issues relating to childcare and financial stress feature prominently in parents' personal stories and concerns. But parents' deep concern about the role technology plays in their children's lives was to the fore.

Seventy-five per cent felt it had a significant impact on their children's wellbeing, 71 per cent found it difficult to monitor and only 23 per cent felt they get enough support on technology.

Parents, including Jenny Smithson, mum to three daughters aged seven, nine and 10, expressed particular concerns about social media.

"Smartphones and social media are incredibly concerning for parents. My girls are dabbling on the edges for now – going on YouTube, playing a few games, researching for school. However, I still wonder about how we equip them for this place full of great possibilities and knowledge, but where there are many dangers.

"I don't want my girls to be caught in the trap of living out their social interactions online, of comparing their lives, relationships, and bodies with the fake world that these things celebrate. I know that the main responsibility for protection in this area lies with us, the parents, and so I feel that any support that can be provided for parents is really valuable."

Parenting NI sees these results as a call to action and have called upon educators, policy makers, businesses and political representatives to improve the lives of parents. Their recommendations include the development of parent-specific mental health interventions and programmes and a specific study of the potential impact of Brexit in a parenting context.

"This year's findings, mirroring last years, remain a deep cause for concern. Parents have made is very clear that on a range of issues – mental health, technology and childcare to name a few – not enough is being done," says Maria Rogan, director for training and development at Parenting NI.

"A pervasive feeling of worry has taken root in Northern Irish parents, and policy makes need to act urgently to address their concerns. The return of elected, locally accountable government offers a chance to improve things, and we call upon all parties to act swiftly."

:: For further information visit Parentingni.org. For advice and support, you can contact the Parenting NI support line on on freephone 0808 8010 722.

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