What Kids Really Do Online (Despite What Parents Think)

June 3, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Europe & Middle East | Media & Entertainment | Men | Retail & E-Commerce | Social Media | Women | Youth & Gen X

US moms and dads estimate that their children spend only two hours a month on the internet, but kids say they actually spend 10 times more time – or 20 hours – according to a recent study, the first Norton Online Living Report by Symantec.

What’s more, 41% of respondents age 13-17 say their parents have no idea what they do online, and only 33% of parents worldwide say they set parental controls and monitor their children’s online activities.

Conducted by Harris Interactive, the study sheds light on what kids are really doing when they log on:

  • Making friends. About a third (35%) of US online children age 8-17 have made friends online. That percentage increases as kids get older: 50% of US teens age 13-17 report making online friends. Some 33% of kids 8-17 report that they prefer to spend at least as much time with their online friends as their offline friends.
  • Social-networking. More than three fourths (76%) of US teens age 13-17 “constantly,” “frequently” or “sometimes” visit social-networking sites. Worldwide, about half of boys (51%) and girls (48%) do so.
  • Shopping. About one in three US children (35%) report being “very confident” or “confident” in shopping online. That number is 69% among children in China.
  • Fielding requests for personal information. About four in 10 (42%) US teens age 13-17 say they have received an online request for personal information.
  • Being approached by strangers. Though US adults estimate that 6% of their children have been approached online by a stranger, 16% of US children report being approached.

“Parents are in the dark when it comes to knowing what their kids are doing online. They don’t have a clue how much time their kids are spending online,” said Marian Merritt, internet safety advocate for Symantec. “This report clearly demonstrates a global digital divide between parents and their cyber-savvy children,” she added.

Adults Are Online Too

The study also revealed some interesting online behaviors among online adults:

  • Social-networking: More than half (52%) say they had made friends online, and nearly half of those (46%) say they enjoyed those relationships as much as or more than those made offline.
  • Blogging: Nearly a third (32%) worldwide work on their personal blogs at least sometimes.
  • Dating: Around the world, 23% (26% of men and 19% of women) report dating online.
  • Reading news: Internet users read news online at nearly an equal rate as they read it in traditional printed newspapers and magazines: 79% report reading news from online sites or blogs at least an hour a month, compared with 85% who report reading news from a printed newspaper or magazine at least one hour per month.
  • Getting beauty & fashion advice: About half of users across the globe get beauty or fashion advice online at least “sometimes” (48%).
  • Shopping: About half feel confident shopping online (53%), with confidence strongest in the UK (78%) and the US (63%). The region having the least amount of confidence in online shopping is Japan (33%).
  • Viewing pornography: About 4 in 10 (41%) in all countries report visiting pornographic sites, with about one-half of Chinese (51%) and Brazilians (55%) reporting doing so. Globally, men (58%) are much more likely than women (18%) to say they visit porn sites.
  • Gaming: Playing games online was reported by 72% of worldwide internet users.
  • Emailing: Nearly all adults across all countries email at least sometimes (99%).

About the Survey: The Norton Online Living Report survey was conducted online within eight countries (US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, China, and Japan) by Harris Interactive on behalf of Symantec. The survey took place between November 12 and December 17, 2007 among 4,687 adults 18 years old and older and 2,717 children age 8 to 17 years old who spend one or more hours online each month. Results were weighted to be representative of the population of online adults and children for each country. The overall study entailed 15-minute interviews among adults and 5-minute interviews among children. Questions asked were identical across all countries, with some overlap between the adult and children surveys.


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