An entire generation of children is now being “raised online”, according to new research. The study, to be published next month, reveals that many youngsters are spending more than 20 hours a week using sites such as Myspace, Facebook, YouTube and bebo. It also reports that many parents have no idea what their children are doing while logged on, and need to become more aware.
The research, which was carried out by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), included workshops and in-depth interviews with a number of teenagers. All those interviewed had a mobile phone and broadband access at their home.
The researchers found that young people are “constantly connected”, staying up into the early hours of the morning and leaving their mobile phones on all the time in case of any messages. Over seventy percent of 12-15 year olds said they mostly used the internet on their own at home, without any parental supervision, and 57 percent had come into contact with some form of online pornography.
The IPPR argues that both Government and internet companies need to do more to protect young people from the possibility of “inappropriate content” and to promote guidelines on acceptable behaviour. Parents may
For example, it suggests that popular sites (such as YouTube) should develop their own guidelines.
Kay Withers, IPPR research fellow and report author, said:
“The internet offers great benefits and opportunities for young people. But with kids spending an ever increasing amount of time online parents need to be reassured about what they are looking at."
Government needs to improve media literacy programmes for kids and to make sure parents are aware of how they can support young people's positive online experiences. But more importantly internet companies need to take more responsibility for the content on their sites and promote acceptable behaviour.
The findings come just as the Government announces the results of the Byron Review, which examined the risks to children from exposure to inappropriate material on the Internet and in video games. Dr Byron has propposed a national strategy for improving child safety online, suggesting age specific cinema-like classifications for video games.
The Prime Minister has backed her proposals, saying that classifications should be made clearer and parents helped to understand new technology better.
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