One in three high-school students spend too much time on social media

29 April 2019
Rachel Cunliffe | Census at School
Rachel Cunliffe

One in three New Zealand high-school students say they spend too much time on social media, according to the latest results of a nationwide survey run by the Department of Statistics.   

They survey is called CensusAtSchool TataurangaKiTeKura and is a non-profit, online educational project that brings statistics to life in both English and Māori-medium classrooms. Supervised by teachers, students from Years 5-13 anonymously answer 30 questions in English or te reo Māori on digital devices.

This data comes from the first 12,000 students to complete this year’s census. Students were asked whether the time they spent on social media accounts was about right, too little or too much. Overall, one in three high-school students feel that their use of social media is excessive. This is highest among girls, with 40% spending too much time on social media compared with just 20% for boys.

CensusAtSchool co-director Rachel Cunliffe says that the findings suggest that students are well aware of public discussion about the drawbacks of social media.

“Connecting with peers is important to young people, and they seem to know about the pros and cons of using social media," she says. "The fact they’re reflecting on their own use of social media is a good thing.”  

In other findings, one in three boys in primary school (33%) and secondary school (30%) believe that their time spent playing video games is excessive.

However, 45% of primary girls and 65% of high-school girls say they don’t get enough time playing video games.    

In other findings:

  • Facebook has fallen from favour with younger high-school students, with Instagram taking its place. In 2011, 80% of Year 9 students had a Facebook profile. This steadily declined to 33% in 2019. Now, 78% of Year 9 students have Instagram, up from 66% in 2015.
  • 49% of high schoolers with a phone say that they always or often check for messages and notifications as soon as they wake in the morning.
  • Half of high-school students say a weekend without their phone would make them feel angry, anxious, frustrated, sad, or lonely. Students could choose from as many as applied from angry, anxious, frustrated, happy, lonely, relieved, sad, neutral, and other. A total of 12% chose angry, 15% chose anxious, 14% chose lonely, 14% chose sad, and 24% said that they would feel frustrated.

CensusAtSchool runs every two years. This year’s census, the ninth, was launched on March 4 and runs until July 5.

During that time, up to 30,000 school children are expected to participate. More than 1,980 teachers from 900 schools have registered; see if your local school is taking part here.  

CensusAtSchool is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people and is carried out in Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan and South Africa. The countries share some questions so comparisons can be made.

It is run by the Department of Statistics with support from Stats NZ and the Ministry of Education.