More Kids Going Online in UK

More than 3 million children in the UK under the age of 17 now use the Internet, according to a survey by the NOP Research Group. This represents an increase of 12 percent in Internet usage among children in the last six months.

The findings, part of NOP Family’s Kids.net survey, show massive growth in Internet use among children in the 7-16 year old age group, and some major shifts in their patterns of use. Almost half (46 percent) of British children have used the Web for something to buy, with 17 percent having actually made an online purchase, the survey found. Not surprisingly, the most common way for children to buy goods online is by using their parents’ credit card.

One of the most surprising results of the NOP’s study has to do with the popularity of “multi-tasking.” Fewer than one-in-five (18 percent) of the children surveyed using the Internet at home said they do nothing else while using the Internet. The most popular activity activities that children engaged in while using the Internet were listening to music (58 percent), watching television (23 percent), listening to the radio (13 percent), and reading magazines (13 percent).

“These findings suggest some significant shifts in patterns of use of the Internet among British children,” said NOP’s Rob Lawson. “The high incidences of multi-tasking create rich media opportunities for brand owners to build relationships with children across multiple media simultaneously.”

NPO has also seen an increase in the number of children that have been upset or embarrassed by something they found on the Internet, from 20 percent to 33 percent in the last six months. Of these, 58 percent describe this material as being “rude.”

“Children appear to be becoming more sophisticated in their use of the Internet, as the statistics on online shopping reveal, but at the same time, there is a significant and worrying, increase in the proportion who are disturbed by material they encounter on the Internet,” Lawson said.

Despite this, NPO found that children are generally very positive in their attitudes toward the Internet, with Internet users being described as “clever,” “friendly,” “cool,” “trendy,” and “rich” by Internet users and non-users alike.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Using the Internet for school projects and educational material is still one of the most popular applications for children. Almost 80 percent of children think the Internet helps them with their learning.
  • The most popular online purchases are games, music, tickets, and videos.
  • Of those children who use the Internet, one-half do so most frequently from home, one-third from school, and the remainder from a friends’ or relatives’ house or from their parents’ work.

Research by the British firm Fletcher Research found that, in the UK, teenage girls outnumber teenage boys on the Internet. Sixty-one percent of the children 18 and younger on the Internet in the UK are girls, according to Fletcher, despite the fact there is little content directed at them.

Fletcher credits online chat for the high usage among female teens. The company reports that 57 percent of girls go online to chat, while only 44 percent of boys do the same. Girls came out ahead in regard to email as well, 77 percent for girls to boys 71 percent. Boys remain more likely to use the Web for entertainment and downloading software and music.

Gender of UK Online Users by Age
Age Female Male
less than 18 61% 39%
18-24 53% 47%
25-34 45% 55%
35-44 36% 64%
45-54 30% 77%
55+ 19% 81%
Source: Fletcher Research

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