Around 65 per cent of UK nine to 16-year-olds questioned said they experienced at least two kinds of problematic use / Getty Images


British children experience more problems with the excessive use of their smart phones than any others in Europe, the most comprehensive study into young people’s internet usage has found.

65 per cent of UK nine to 16-year-olds questioned reported experiencing at least two kinds of problematic use in the EU survey.

The most commonly identified issue was feeling the overwhelming urge to check and re-check their phone to see if anything was going on.

Nearly half reported feeling bothered when they could not look at emails or access social media whilst four out of 10 said they spent less time with their families, friends or doing homework because of their phone.

A similar number said they had looked at the device in inappropriate places.

Boys were more slightly likely to encounter overuse problems than girls, the academic study Net Children Go Mobile found. But whereas four years ago British children were more than twice as likely to report unwelcome behaviour as a result of using the internet, the gap with the rest of the continent has since narrowed.

The report said: “The UK still leads in terms of measures of excessive internet use, although the rest of Europe appears to be ‘catching up’ in this regard. Still, UK children are increasingly reporting the negative consequences of excessive internet use over time.”

Researchers found that young people regarded smartphones as “extensions” of their body which could be easily stored and carried all day and with them at night.

One 12-year-old called Emma described how she was routinely bombarded with messages on WhatsApp. 

“Say I went for dinner there’d be like 100 messages and you just can’t be bothered to read them, and then you miss something,” she said.

Older teenagers were more likely to report experiencing difficulties although nearly a third of nine to 10-year-olds said they had a problem with excessive use.

The report found that schools were best placed to promote good internet and smartphone practices working alongside parents.  

The report concluded: “While UK children embrace smartphones more, and are more positive about their benefits (especially for keeping in touch with friends), smartphones clearly have their downsides too; for example, a third of children felt the pressure to be available for contact through these devices, and more children in the UK than across Europe are also now reporting a range of negative consequences.”