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Half of parents say they know less about the internet than their children

April 19, 2011


Half of parents (48 per cent) with children aged 5-15 who use the internet at home think they know less about the internet than their children do, new Ofcom research published today reveals. This rises to 70 per cent 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 per cent) of 5-15 year olds own a smartphone, and 16 per cent go online via a games console. However, among 12-15 year olds this rises to over one third (35 per cent) owning a smartphone and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) going online via a games console. Forty one per cent of this age group now access the internet in their bedroom, up from 31 per cent 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 per cent in 2010 compared to 43 per cent 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.
The findings form part of Ofcom’s media literacy reports, which focus on the safe and informed use and understanding of digital content among UK adults and children.

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 per cent in 2009 to 44 per cent 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 per cent) ahead of TV (23 per cent), and are as likely to say the internet (26 per cent).

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

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

Overall, 54 per cent 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 per cent compared with 44 per cent in 2009).
Within this, around a third (34 per cent) 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 per cent 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 per cent of 12-15s now say their profile can only be seen by friends compared with 78 per cent in 2009), nearly one third of this age group (32 per cent) 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 per cent) 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 per cent) knowing someone who has had gossip spread about them online or via a text message and three in ten (29 per cent) 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. Fifty-four per cent of adult internet users have concerns about the internet, such as offensive or illegal content, or security or fraud issues, down from 70 per cent in 2005. Forty per cent of adults now have any concerns about TV, for example, offensive content (22 per cent), programme quality or repeats (24 per cent) – an overall decrease from 46 per cent in 2005.

Two in five (41 per cent) 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 per cent) are not evaluating search engine results. Around one quarter (26 per cent) 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 per cent say they simply use the sites they like the look of rather than thinking about accuracy or bias.

But people are enjoying the benefits of being online

More people are using the internet to do more online.

There has been an increase in adult internet users watching audio-visual content online (41 per cent compared with 32 per cent in 2009).

There has also been an increase in the use of the internet for health information with over half of internet users (56 per cent) saying that they have ever used the internet to find out more about an illness, an increase of nine percentage points on 2009.

And more people are regularly using the internet for transactions such as buying and selling online (43 per cent in 2010 – up from 37 per cent in 2009).

Eight in ten adult internet users (82 per cent) say that they saved money in the last six months by using the internet, for example comparing prices or buying online rather than in the shops.

The reports are available here: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/media-literacy-pubs/.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The adult media literacy report surveyed 2117 adults aged 16+, and the children’s media literacy report surveyed 2071 children aged 5-15 and their parents. The surveys have been running since 2005 and ask respondents about a range of media attitudes and behaviours.

2. Ofcom has published a consumer guide ‘Managing your media in a digital world’ to help parents understand some of the issues raised by Ofcom’s research. This is available on the Ofcom website at: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2011/04/managing-your-media-protecting-your-children-in-a-digital-world/.

3. Ofcom works with a range of bodies such as UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) http://www.education.gov.uk/ukccis/ and Get Safe Online http://www.getsafeonline.org/ to support their work in the areas raised in this research.

4. Under section 11 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to promote media literacy. Ofcom’s research into media literacy informs three of Ofcom’s strategic priorities: to provide appropriate assurance to audiences on standards; to help communications markets work for consumers; and to contribute and implement public policy as defined by Parliament.

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