Ofcom, the independent UK communications regulator, has released a report about children and their interaction with the internet.
The “Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2015,’ has found that children spend twice as much time online as they did 10 years ago.
That statistic will come as no surprise to any parent.
What might shock parents is the fact that a significant proportion of ‘digital natives,’ (children between the ages of 8-15, who have grown up with the internet) will believe almost everything they see online.
Ofcom also found that these digital natives seem can’t differentiate between what is and isn’t true in relation to what they see on the internet.
The report showed that almost 1 in 10 children believe everything they read and watch in apps and on social media. This is a doubling from the figure cited in the previous year’s report.
The effect of online advertising was also measured among 12-15 years old and found that almost 20% of children were adamant that search engine results provided by Google or other search engines must be true.
The same 12-15 year old grouping were unaware that vloggers are often paid to endorse and publicize the products they promote.
Almost 20% of 12-15 years old again also now seek out ‘true and accurate’ information about news and world events from media sites such as YouTube. 8% of this age group also claim to prefer video sharing sites as their first choice for news and information. This is a small but significant jump from last year.
Only half of 12-15 year olds were aware however, that sites such as YouTube were primarily funded by advertisers.
More than likely due to direct personal experience however, three quarters of 12-15 year olds were aware that people are more likely to behave differently online than they do in real life.
Children involved with the Ofcom report were also said to express concern about spending too much time online.
One in every ten children aged 8-15 disliked having to spend too much time on the internet, with almost a third of 12-15 year olds feeling they spent too much of their time online.
Children are more sensible than supposed, however, when it comes to befriending strangers.
Only seven per cent of 12-15 year olds say they had added people as “friends” with whom they had only had online contact.
Reassuringly, almost 100% of children were found to have been given advice, mostly by parents, about staying safe online. The vast majority said they would inform their parents or teachers if they saw anything online that worried, scared, or offended them.
The report’s findings were summarized by James Thickett, research director of Ofcom, who said:
“The internet allows children to learn, discover different points of view and stay connected with friends and family. But these digital natives still need help to develop the know-how they need to navigate the online world.”