The level of emotional dependency on the Internet among Britain’s youth has been revealed by the results of a new study conducted by research firm Intersperience.
The results show that those under 12 years of age have a strong emotional connection with the net, with half claiming they would be “sad” without web access, while teens scored even higher, with 60 percent saying they’d also feel “sad”.
The Digital Futures project questioned 1,000 youngsters between 8 and 18 years of age in an attempt to better understand how online and digital technology affects their lives.
Forty-eight percent of teens said they’d feel “lonely” without the Internet, which was more than twice the number of under 12s, no doubt reflecting the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter among the older members of the survey group. Indeed, more than 70 percent of teens questioned in the survey said they chat on Facebook. However, if anyone thought the UK was about to become a nation of hermits, stuck indoors 24/7 staring into their computer screens, the survey also showed that more than 50 percent of teens like to talk to friends face to face, compared to 35 percent who like to talk to friends online.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Intersperience chief executive Paul Hudson said: “The fact that children have a strong emotional attachment to the Internet is often regarded as a negative thing but in fact it is perfectly natural for a generation whose social life is largely online.” He added: “It’s equivalent to taking a phone away from older people, they’d feel sad and lonely too.”
The results showed that the younger generation are certainly confident users of the web, with 74 percent of under 12s going online to play games, and 65 percent using it to help with their homework.
Perhaps a reflection of the economically challenging times, more than 33 percent go online to look for things to buy and sell. Many young people also have a good understanding of online security, with a third refusing to give personal information to organizations online.
Even toddlers seem pretty savvy when it comes to Internet-enabled devices, with the results of the study revealing that in families it’s the two-year-old who’s most likely to be found playing about on the iPad, with many having little trouble finding the game or story app they’re looking for.
“Our Digital Futures project is one of the most comprehensive studies undertaken in the UK on how children interact with the digital world,” Hudson said. “It shows that even very young children are skilled multi-channel communicators who view the internet as an ever-present virtual playground. However they also have a surprisingly good grasp of complex issues like online security and e-commerce.”
Hudson said the results showed that “8 to 11 years olds perform a wider daily range of tasks online than grown-ups.”
Addressing fears among some that that youngsters may be too emotionally dependent on the Internet, Hudson said, “Our study shows that far from losing the art of conversation, children still prefer chatting to their friends in person.”