Internet Part of the Family in Canada

The average Canadian family spends more than 32 hours per week online, according to an Ipsos-Reid study, and the majority of families would choose to take their computer in the old “desert island” question.

The survey of 750 online parents with children under the age of 18, which was conducted by Ipsos-Reid for RBC Financial Group, found that Canadian families view the Internet as a way to bring their families together. Thirty-nine percent of parents surveyed said they sometimes go online with their children, and 12 percent said they always go online with their kids. And that’s not limited to a supervisory capacity: 56 percent of parents admit they have learned at least some of what they know about the Internet from their children.

“The personal computer has become the nerve center of the new online home,” said Martin Stevens, director of e-commerce at RBC Financial Group. “The PC and the Internet are redefining how Canadians approach many aspects of their lives including shopping, banking, commuting family activities, home design and communications.”

The survey also asked the famous “desert island” question, in which respondents are asked what they would bring with them in the event they were stranded on a desert island. The majority (51 percent) of online Canadian families said they would bring their PC over their telephone (21 percent) and television (12 percent) if indeed they had the opportunity to pack before getting stuck on a desert island for a month.

More than half (57 percent) of the parents surveyed have guidelines about when and how the computer is to be used, and 48 percent said they place time limits or curfews on their kids’ Internet usage. Forty-one percent said they have had to negotiate computer or Internet time in the household.

More than one-third (37 percent) of the families surveyed said that they have redesigned, reconfigured or renovated a portion of their living space to accommodate their computer. Home networks are also becoming more prevalent in Canada with 43 percent of families with two or more computers in the home having turned to networking the PCs together in order to share peripherals or broadband access.

The convenience of Internet access is not lost on Canadian families, 72 percent of the parents surveyed agreed that telecommuting allows them to spend more time with their family. More than half of parents with a home Internet connection have purchased an item directly online (59 percent) and 57 percent have conducted online banking transactions. More than half (58 percent) agree that banking or shopping online has allowed them to spend more time at home with their kids.

Other findings from the Ipsos-Reid survey include:

  • Almost half of Canadian Internet-using families have more than one computer
  • The average family spends more than 1,600 hours online per year
  • 48 percent of parents place curfews on their kids’ Internet usage
  • 20 percent of all families with home Internet access have computers that have been networked to others within the home
  • 48 percent of parents admit their kids have at least some influence on the purchase of new technology for the household

A survey called Young Canadians in a Wired World, which examined 5,682 students between the ages of 9 and 17 in schools across Canada paints a different picture. It found that one-half of young people said they think they know more about the Internet than their parents do. The survey, undertaken by Environics Research Group for the Media Awareness Network, also found that young people are often on their own when they go online — 84 percent said they are by themselves when they go online at least some of the time, and 70 percent said their parents talk to them very little or not at all about what they do online.

A majority of parents (65 percent) emphasized schoolwork when asked how their kids use the Internet. But kids said they like to use the Internet for a wide variety of activities: playing and downloading music and games, using email, using instant messaging and visiting chat rooms.

Young people do use the Internet for schoolwork (38 percent), though not as much as their parents think they do. However, as a homework tool, the Internet was ranked first among young people as their preferred source of information, followed by books from the public library and books from school.

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