What does it say about the state of the internet today that there’s an entire lexicon of terms devoted to describing the many dangers we might encounter while using it? Malware, cyberbullying, trolling, doxing, phishing, identity theft, ransomware, cyber predators—it’s a long and growing list.
Look, we all love the internet. But it’s clear that excessive (or obsessive) internet use comes with risks. We may joke about experiencing a bit of FOMO once in a while or own up to occasional bouts of late-night doomscrolling, but most of us are well aware that the harmful forces we routinely face online are real and have the potential to negatively impact our mental health.
In fact, there’s a growing body of scientific research that finds a correlation between the amount of time spent online a long list of problems, including obesity, chronic neck pain, disrupted sleep and increased feelings of anxiety and depression. Numerous studies have found the combination of excessive smartphone and social media use among children and adolescents to be particularly harmful to their mental health. Thankfully digital literacy organizations like MediaSmarts—which CIRA has funded in recent years— exist to help teach young people how to stay safe and look after themselves online, but, as the data shows, it’s a big job and we’re all going to have to do our part.
Despite what many Canadians may know about the downside of being constantly connected, they continue to spend a big chunk of their day online. They’re working, connecting with friends and family, pursuing their hobbies, doing their banking and reading the news. They’re also entertaining themselves, whether through streaming TV, movies and music, gaming or spending time on social platforms.
Half of Canadians say they spend 5 or more hours online per day. Of those, 13 per cent say they’re connected between seven and eight hours a day, while for another 10 per cent that number rises to between nine and 10 hours a day. Ontario residents lead the country in this category, with 27 per cent saying they’re connected to the internet for nine or more hours a day on average. At the other end of the spectrum, just five per cent of Canadians spend less than one hour of their day online. These numbers aren’t new or surprising; they’re consistent with the findings from our 2021 and 2022 Factbook surveys, following steady increases in online use from 2016 through 2020.