The average Australian child is spending 11.5 hours online each week, according to the latest Neilson survey. This amount has increased three-fold since 2007 and there are no signs of slowing down. Teens aged 13 to 15 spend an average of 18.7 hours each week online, which is equivalent to more than three days at school.

And while some of this time may be spent researching for school papers, there is no doubt that online gaming and social media come into play as well.

Are Our Children Too Connected?

A study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 69 per cent of children went online to play games while 48 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 spend time each week on social media sites.

Mobile internet growth among young mobile users has grown by 600 per cent since 2007. And 81 per cent of kids and teens are hoping online after school but before 6pm.

Family Time Vs. Facebook Time

What this means is that more and more families around Australia are choosing to connect to their screens rather than each other.

“As screens become more and more universal we are starting to reflect on how technology is influencing relationships with our children and partners,” Ms Laura Demasi, Research Director at Ipsos Australia says.

“Personal screens and shared screens, such as televisions, are completely different. There is no social interaction with personal screens. And this is the concern.”

With the rise in fear of Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) a term being use to explain the impact technology is having on children’s development and temperament, it is clear that cutting back on our online addiction is something all families need to consider.

However, DeMasi adds, “Despite these concerns about technology, Australians are still hugely enthusiastic about electronic devices and definitely not about to give up their screens.”

Personal electronic devices, such as smart phone and tablets continue to be among our most used appliances (75 per cent) across all age demographics. But, unsurprisingly, it’s not just our kids who are addicted to the internet.

Anti-Social Media Among Adults

Parents are just as bad with online addiction, claims, Pew Research Center as more and more parents are turning to social media for parenting-related information and social support.

The most common form of social media for parents is Facebook, with 75 per cent of parents actively participating in liking, sharing and commenting.

28 per cent of parents use Pinterest; 25 per cent use Instagram and 27 per cent use LinkedIn. Twitter ranks as the fifth most popular form of social media with 23 per cent of online parents using it.

Of course, many parents, myself included, are guilty of using all five (and often all in the same day).

The Communication Gap

Despite the fact that social media brings people from around the world together, it also have the opposite effect for those living in the same household. The Pew Research Center discovered that 25 per cent of married adults have text their partner when they were both home together, rather than simply walking ten meters to speak to them.

And 9 per cent of adults in a committed relationship even admit that they have resolved an argument with their partner online or via text message rather than speaking face to face about their concerns.

Cutting Back on Your Connection

Origin’s Energy Expert, Anne Armansin, says while technology will forever play a role in Australians’ lives, everyone could make some simple changes to the way they use it to ensure quality family time doesn’t suffer as a result of being too plugged in.

“Parents should try to set some house rules for the amount of time their children spend using a device, and help them understand why this is important.”

“There are also several apps out there that can help people realise how much time they’re spending on specific devices, and allow them to unplug from your device for a nominated period of time.”

Plugged In But No Longer Present

Social media networks and online interactions are host to a wide range of human experiences; they help connect people with one another in both good times and bad. But there is no denying that they can lead to online addiction.

The bottom line, DeMasi says, is “the more time we spend on our screens, the less time we interact with each other.”

There have been several times when I have looked up from my phone and caught my husband on his phone, and my children on their iPads. Sure, we are all in the same room. Sure, we are enjoying one another’s company. But, the scary reality is that, while we are together, we are spending this time alone.

Try and disconnect every now and again and reconnecting with each other through fun activities.