Half of parents are less net smart than kids

Half of parents (48%) with children aged 5-15 who use the internet at home think they know less about the internet than their children do, according to a survey by Ofcom, the media regulator. This rises to 70% of parents of 12-15-year-olds.

At the same time, there has been increased online activity among children in the past year, including higher usage of mobile and games consoles to go online. Around one fifth (18%) of 5-15 year olds own a smartphone, and 16% go online via a games console. However, among 12-15 year olds this rises to over one third (35%) owning a smartphone and nearly a quarter (23%) going online via a games console. Forty one% of this age group now access the internet in their bedroom, up from 31% in 2009.

Parents appear to be less concerned about how their children use the internet. They are less likely to say they have internet parental controls set – 37% in 2010 compared to 43% in 2009. Those that don’t have parental controls mainly say it’s either because they trust their child or because they are supervising them.

TV loses top spot as most-missed media for younger people

Seventy-four per cent of all households now have the internet at home, an increase of three percentage points from 2009. And the amount of time adult internet users say they spend on the internet has increased from 12.2 hours in 2009 to 14.2 hours in 2010. 12-15 year olds now say they spend 15.6 hours per week on the internet, just below the 17.2 hours they spend watching TV.

TV remains the media that would be missed the most for the UK as a whole, although it has decreased – from 50% in 2009 to 44% in 2010.

For the first time 16-24s do not say they would miss TV the most – they are more likely to say mobile phones (28%) ahead of TV (23%), and are as likely to say the internet (26%).

Among children aged 12-15, television is no longer the most-missed media (24%), as 26% say they’d most miss their mobile and 24% say the internet.

The popularity of mobile phones among 12-15s is reflected by the estimated number of text messages sent per week doubling since 2007 with 113 texts sent per week compared with 54 in 2007.

More than half of children aged 8-15 who use the internet at home now have a social networking profile

Overall, 54% of children aged 8-15 who use the internet at home have a social networking profile, an increase of nine percentage points since 2009. This is now the same percentage as for adult internet users (54% compared with 44% in 2009).

Within this, around a third (34%) of children aged 8-12 who use the internet at home have a social networking profile on sites that require users to register as being 13 or over (such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace), up from a quarter in 2009. This rises to 47% of 10-12 year olds.

A quarter of children aged 8-15 with a smartphone say that they regularly use it to visit social networking sites.

Mixed attitudes to online privacy and personal data among children

While more children say they have become more careful about their privacy online, (87% of 12-15s now say their profile can only be seen by friends compared with 78% in 2009), nearly one third of this age group (32%) with an active social networking site profile say they speak to friends of friends or people they don’t know.

In addition, one in five (22%) of 12-15 year olds who use the internet at home would be happy to share their email address online. These levels of comfort in sharing personal data among young people could mean that they are not evaluating the potential risks.

Older children are aware of negative online experiences, with almost half of children aged 12-15 (47%) knowing someone who has had gossip spread about them online or via a text message and three in ten (29%) knowing someone who has had embarrassing pictures made public.

UK adults less concerned about the internet

Understanding how the media operates can help audiences manage their expectations of content online and on TV, which is especially important given the growth of video on demand services.

Since 2005, UK adults have fewer concerns about TV and the internet despite increased take-up and usage. 54% of adult internet users have concerns about the internet, such as offensive or illegal content, or security or fraud issues, down from 70% in 2005. Forty% of adults now have any concerns about TV, for example, offensive content (22%), programme quality or repeats (24%) – an overall decrease from 46% in 2005.

Two in five (41%) of adults think content on the internet is regulated, an increase of four percentage points since 2009.

And nearly half of adult search engine users (44%) are not evaluating search engine results. Around one quarter (26%) believe that if results have been listed by the search engine then they must be accurate or unbiased, up by six percentage points since 2009. And a further 18% say they simply use the sites they like the look of rather than thinking about accuracy or bias.

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