Modern technology gives us many things.

We’ve become addicted to our screens while stuck at home during COVID lockdown

One of the many downsides of being in a COVID lockdown is that Australians are spending too much time on their devices with two in five admitting they are addicted to screens.

A new report examining our at-home online behaviours from NortonLifeLock, a global leader in cyber safety, shows that three in five Australians (62 per cent) admit they spend too much time looking at screens with nearly two in five (38 per cent) admitting they have a screen addiction.

We’re not going out so instead we’re turning to the screen while we’re at home because it’s within reach and we’re curious about what’s going on in the outside world.

In the study conducted by Harris Poll among more than 1,000 Australians, half said the amount of time they spent in front of a screen on top of the time for work and education purposes has significantly increased during the pandemic.

Respondents said they spend an average of 5.4 hours per day in front of a screen while working or learning from home – for many this is already too much.

And when it comes to specific devices, the smartphones is king.

Australians believe they are spending too much time on them (50 per cent) especially younger adults aged between 18 and 39.

From those who said their recreational screen time has increased during the COVID pandemic, 91 per cent said they have some level of impact – both positive and negative.

Overall, more than half of Australians (57 per cent) agree that the amount of time they are spending in front of as screen is having an adverse effect on their physical health while 41 per cent say it affects their mental health with anxiety, depression and loneliness.

The respondents said they owned on average five connected devices with in one in five saying they bought a new smart home or connected device to help them cope during the pandemic.

Surprisingly, of those who have connected devices only a quarter (24 per cent) have not installed any sort of internet security.

“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 solutions to help families stay safe online including Norton Mobile Security which offers protection for Android and iOS devices and Norton Family which helps parents to 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 per cent) 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 per cent), has led them to experience increased anxiety or depression (14 per cent) and has made them feel lonelier than ever before (13 per cent).

– 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 per cent) say they would take action, most commonly changing the security settings or passwords (55 per cent).

– Further, one-third say they would reset the device (i.e., remove all personal data/reset to default) (33 per cent) or would install security software or increase pre-existing security software (33 per cent). Around one-quarter say they would search online for help (27 per cent), restart the device (22 per cent) or ask family members and friends for help (22 per cent).

Convenience and utility outweigh any security concerns when it comes to smart home devices. About 2 in 3 Australian adults surveyed (66 per cent) own a smart home device, most commonly smart TVs (56 per cent) and smart speakers/home assistants (22 per cent).

– While consumers generally describe smart home devices as convenient (38 per cent) and helpful (35 per cent), some find them to be a security risk (29 per cent) and intrusive (21 per cent). A few even describe smart home devices as not trustworthy (18 per cent), creepy (15 per cent), or scary (10 per cent).

– Australians surveyed think conversations about online safety should start young. 86 per cent 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 per cent believing it is absolutely essential. Further, nearly all (96 per cent) 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 per cent) concede it is difficult for parents to keep children safe when they are online.