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Aussie kids early adopters online

Thursday, 03 November 2011

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Australian children are among the earliest in the world to use the internet, but three in 10 report having been bothered by something online.

This is more than twice as many as the 12 per cent average for 25 other countries.

The findings are from a major international study into the online activities of children.

ECU’s Professor Lelia Green led the team from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCi) that conducted the Australian research.

“Our kids are what we call ‘high use, high risk’. Being natural risk takers, they may bite off more than they can chew and see some things they are not comfortable with,” Professor Green said.

“There are still important skills that will help them stay safe online. For instance, only 37 per cent know how to change filter preferences on their web browser, and one third of 11 to 12 year olds do not know how to block unwanted messages from people.”

The findings include:

  • Australian children (9-16) were, on average, almost eight years old when they first used the internet;
  • They are ranked eighth out of 26 countries for Internet use, with 76% going online daily and 22% once or twice a week;
  • Top activities are using the internet for schoolwork (86%), watching video clips (85%), playing games (78%), emailing (67%) and social networking (63%);
  • Most Australian children report being able to bookmark websites, find information on how to use the internet safely and block messages, but only 37% say they can change filter preferences;
  • 28% of 11-16 year olds have seen sexual images online; and
  • 29% of Australian children say they have been bullied (compared to 19% across Europe), and 13% say this occurred on the internet (compared to 6% for European nations).

“A growing challenge is that more kids will be going online with mobile devices, where they will be out of the family monitoring range,” Professor Green said.

“Three in five Australian children are using their smartphones to log on – a much higher proportion than in the other 25 countries.”

The report compares Australian children with children from 25 countries including the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Norway. It draws on the work of the ‘EU Kids Online’ network funded by the EC (DG Information Society) Safer Internet plus Programme.

The report 'Risk and safety for Australian children on the internet' was written by Lelia Green, Danielle Brady, Kjartan Ólafsson, John Hartley and Catharine Lumby.

Professor Green and co-author Dr Danielle Brady are from ECU's School of Communications and Arts.

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