e-society; digital technology and children’s media literacy

e-society; digital technology and children’s media literacy

Some interesting findings relating to the use of digital technology in homes and in schools and children’s media literacy.

Social Trends is an annual overview of the ‘the state of the nation’ published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It gives us a moving picture of how we are doing. It first appeared in 1970. The latest edition (2011) includes, for the first time, a chapter on e-society, bringing together statistics on how we are using digital technologies – digital radios and TV, mobile phones, computers, the internet – in the home, in schools, and at work.

Its an interesting read. You can download it from  http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/social-trends-rd/social-trends/social-trends-41/index.html

Equally interesting are the results of surveys of media literacy conducted by Ofcom – some of the findings are included in the Social Trends chapter. You can download their latest report on UK Children’s Media Literacy from www.ofcom.org.uk/medialiteracyresearch. As Ofcom puts it, “media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make full use of the opportunities presented both by traditional and by new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications, and protect themselves and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.”

Here are some findings relating to home and school use of digital technology and media literacy reported in these two studies that have caught our eye.

Ownership of digital technology

  • UK Households in the highest income group are nearly three times as likely as those in the lowest group to own a home computer, 98 per cent compared with 33 per cent. Ownership of mobile phones and a digital television service are also linked to income, although to a lesser extent. Households in the highest income group are nearly one-and a-half times more likely to have a satellite receiver or a mobile phone than those in the lowest income group.

Use of digital technology

  • According to Ofcom, people who used new technology in 2010 in the UK spent almost half (45 per cent) of their waking hours watching television, using their mobiles and other communication devices such as the Internet.
  • Asked which media activity they would miss doing the most, the majority of adults (aged 16+) across the age groups nominated watching television. However, nearly a third (32 per cent) of those aged 16 to 24 stated that they would miss using a mobile phone the most, compared with 14 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 and only 1 per cent of those aged 65 and over. The Internet would be missed most by around a fifth of each age group among those aged 16 to 54.

Internet access

  • In 2010 73 per cent of UK households had Internet access. This compares with 57 per cent in 2006.
  • In 2008 83 per cent of UK households with dependent children had Internet access.
  • In 2008, households in the highest 10 per cent of the income distribution in the UK were over three-and-a-half times as likely as those in the lowest 10 per cent to have an Internet connection – 96 per cent of households compared with 26 per cent.
  • 69 per cent of UK households have broadband access to the internet, compared to an EU average of 56 per cent, with Sweden ranking highest at 79 per cent and Romania lowest at 24 per cent.

Use of the Internet

  • Over three-quarters (78 per cent) of all those who had accessed the Internet in the three months prior to interview had done so every day or almost every day, while a fifth (17 per cent) had accessed it at least once a week but not every day.
  • In 2010, just under a fifth of adults (18 per cent) had never used the Internet; however, this differed by educational qualifications. Over half (55 per cent) of adults aged 16 and over in the UK with no qualifications had never used the Internet. In comparison only 2 per cent of adults with a degree or equivalent qualification.
  • There are also geographical differences in Internet use across the UK. In 2010 just under 3 in 10 adults aged 16 and over in the North East had never used the Internet, followed by around 2 in 10 adults in Scotland, Yorkshire and the Humber, and West Midlands. Only a little over 1 in 10 of adults in London had never used the Internet.

Online communication and social networking

  • The proportion of Internet users in the UK aged 16 and over who had their own social networking site profile doubled between 2007 and 2009, from 22 per cent to 44 per cent.

Children’s use of new technology

Adults in older age groups are known as ‘digital immigrants’ as they grew up without digital technology and adopted it later. However, children under 16 are ‘digital natives’, since digital technology already existed when they were born, and hence they have grown up with it around them.

  • According to Ofcom, around 9 in 10 children aged 5 to 15 live in a household with a digital television service. Four in five live in a household with access to the Internet through a home computer and 9 in 10 live in a household with a games console.
  • In 2009, 9 per cent of children aged 5 to 7 owned a mobile phone compared with 50 per cent of those aged 8 to 11 and 88 per cent of those aged 12 to 15. Just over a quarter of children aged 5 to 15 owning a mobile phone had first acquired one by the time they were eight years old and just under two-thirds by the time they were 10 years old. Girls were more likely than boys to have a mobile phone by the time they are 10 years old.
  • TV remains the preferred medium for 5-7s (52%), and 8-11s (45%), although there has been an increase among 8-11s saying they would most-miss the internet (15% in 2010 v. 10% in 2009). Children aged 12-15 are now as likely to miss the internet (24%) and mobiles (26%) as they are to miss TV (24%).
  • in 2009 31 per cent of children aged 8 to 11 in the UK and 69 per cent of those aged 12 to 15, used the Internet at home for social networking at least once a week. One in four (25 per cent), Internet users aged 8 to 12 had a page or profile on Facebook, Bebo or MySpace, despite the fact that the minimum age for setting up a profile on these social networking sites is 13 years.
  • In 2009, similar proportions of boys and girls in the UK aged between 5 and 15 used the Internet on ‘most days’ (28 and 29 per cent respectively), or once or twice a week (36 and 35 per cent) for schoolwork or homework. More boys than girls never used the Internet for this purpose – 20 per cent of boys compared with 16 per cent of girls.
  • According to a Flash Eurobarometery report in 2008, 59 per cent of parents and guardians of those aged 6 to 17 in the UK were very or rather worried that their child might see sexually or violently explicit images on the Internet, while 46 per cent were very or rather worried that their child could become a victim of online grooming.
  • There are high levels of agreement and confidence from parents in terms of their attitudes towards trusting their child, the benefits of the internet, and whether their child has been taught about online safety at school. However, 48% of parents think their child knows more than them about the internet, rising to 70% of parents of 12-15s.

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