Net Catching on with UK’s Young and Old

More than one in nine children under age 17 in Britain connect to the Internet while at home, according to research by NetValue, and you might be surprised at the sites they frequent.

The number of at-home Internet users under age 17 in Britain has grown by 44 percent over the last six months, from more than 1 million in October 2000 to nearly 1.5 million in March 2001. Children under age 11 account for 249,000 users in the country, with more than 1.2 million between the ages of 11 and 16.

The increasing use of the Internet by children should not come as a surprise, but the sites children visit from home may be a shock. More than one-quarter of all U.K. youngsters (382,000) visited gambling sites, remaining on the sites for an average of 11.3 minutes. One in five children (290,000) visited pornography Web sites, remaining for an average of 28 minutes. Half of all U.K. Internet users under 17 visited music and literature Web sites in March 2001 and 40 percent visited game sites.

Audio and video content is also popular, with 35.8 percent of kids downloading music and watching video clips, and 33.8 percent using instant messaging. Online games were played by 5.2 percent of Internet users under age 17, with each playing, on average, 12.4 days per month. The average U.K. users under 17 logged on 2.2 times per day in March and spent 5 hours, 48 minutes online per month.

When compared to other European countries, NetValue found Britain has the most Internet users under age 17. Norway has the highest proportion of Internet users under 17 at 18.9 percent of its Internet population. Britain has the second largest, ahead of the United States. German youngsters spent the most time online in March, more than twice the average for the rest of Europe. They also connect more often, logging on 2.8 times a day. U.S. children are second, connecting for an average of 2.3 times per day.

As would be expected, older U.K. citizens who use the Internet have much different view of how the Net has enriched their lives. According to a survey by Age Concern and Microsoft, older Web users believe the experience has strengthened their family ties and friendships.

The survey, conducted online on Age Concern’s Web site, exploded the myth that the Internet adds to social exclusion. But older people reported that getting and learning about computers has helped them forge new and important links of common interest with their families. Many also reported that it has intensified contact with distant relatives and friends as they are able to receive photos and sound attachments.

The older surfers surveyed also said the Net was well suited to their generation’s needs and felt it was an important resource. However, there were two main areas where they had concerns: the cost of Internet access and cybercrime.

Ninety percent of the respondents considered email to be the biggest benefit to having Internet access. Major concerns mentioned by older surfers were isolation and losing contact with people, so it was not surprising that sending emails topped the poll. Seven percent of the respondents cited playing games as a use for the Internet.

“Older Internet users are enjoying the whole Internet experience — they are fluent users who are communicating with friends and making new ones, developing improved relations with family, shopping, exploring hobbies and chatting with their grandchildren,” said Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern England. “It’s a medium that they are happy and confident with.”

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