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Risks and safety for Australian children on the internet

20 November, 2011
By Allison Orr

This report, Risks and safety for Australian children on the Internet, analyses the initial findings from a survey of 9-16 year old Australians, to provide insight into the balance of opportunities and risks of children online.  It catalogues findings by age, gender and socioeconomic status, and compares children’s experiences to those of 25 European nations.

The results show that Australian children first access the Internet, on average, at just under eight years old, which makes them among the youngest first-time users in the study.  Three-quarters (76%) of children go online daily or almost daily.  The average time spent online is just over an hour and a half (99 minutes), higher than the 25 nation average (88 minutes)

The most common activity online is using the Internet for schoolwork (86%), emailing (67%) and social networking (63%).  Social networking activity appears to begin at the start of secondary school, since less than a third (29%) of 9-10 year olds have a SNS profile, while it jumps to (59%) for 11-12 year olds.

However, the study shows that young children lack basic online safety skills.  For example, around one third of 11-12 year olds cannot block messages from people they don’t want to hear from; while a quarter of all young people cannot change privacy settings on a social networking site.  Nearly one-third of Australian children say they have been bothered or upset by something online in the past year – the highest result of any of the 25 nations studied.  The percentage of Australian children saying they have been bullied online (13%), is also significantly higher than for the other countries.

The report concludes by pointing out that online opportunity and risk go hand in hand, and therefore, policies to reduce harm should not hinder children’s ability to use the Internet with confidence and competence.


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