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Aussie kids log-on more than European peers

Friday, 09 November 2012

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Australian children use the internet more excessively than their European counterparts, a new study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers has found.

The report, Excessive internet use among Australian children, builds upon the findings of the EU Kids Online study into excessive internet use and compares the online habits of kids in 26 countries.

It shows that Australian kids’ internet use builds to a peak at age 13, when around 7 per cent are excessive users, then declines quite sharply over the next three years. 

Professor Lelia Green, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at ECU, said excessive use is more than simply the amount of time spent online.

“As well as asking children how many hours they’re logged on, we asked if they have experienced five behaviours that may indicate they’re online too much.”

The five behaviours include:

  1. not eating or sleeping because of using the internet;
  2. feeling bothered when they can’t get online;
  3. surfing the web when they’re not really interested; spending less time than they should with family, friends or doing less schoolwork because of
  4. the time spent online; and
  5. trying unsuccessfully to decrease their internet use.

The survey of 300 Australian kids aged 11 to 16 revealed that only two per cent of the participants said they have experienced all five behaviours, compared to an average of one per cent across 25 European countries.

 “Seven per cent of 13 year old Australians ticked all five boxes, dropping to five per cent of 14 year olds and zero per cent for 16 year olds,” Professor Green said.

This contrasts with the European case where it is older children who are more likely to have experienced all five behaviours.

Professor Green said the research shows that parents need to talk to their children very early on about the internet, show an interest in what they do online and help them develop basic internet safety skills, like how to block unwanted contacts.

The Excessive internet use among Australian children report can be viewed at the Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation website.

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