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FEATURE ARTICLE: CHILDREN'S USE OF THE INTERNET AND MOBILE PHONES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
From 1998 to 2008-09, the proportion of South Australian households with computer access has steadily increased from 41% to 75% (246,000 to 484,000 households respectively). Over the same period household internet access has increased more than five-fold from 12% to 66% (75,000 to 432,000).
From 1998 to 2008-09 there has been an increasing correlation between households with a computer and the increase of households accessing the internet. In 2008-09, 89% of households with a computer also had internet access, while in 1998 only 31% of households with a computer also had access to the internet.
Over the last five years there has been significant developments and improvements to internet connection speeds available. Since the introduction of the high speed broadband connection, the proportion of households with dial-up access has declined. From 2004-05 to 2008-09, the proportion of households in South Australia with dial-up access decreased from 39% to 12%, while broadband access increased from 10% to 54%. Of all South Australian households in 2008-09 with an internet connection, 81% (348,000) were connected via a broadband connection.
Children's use of the Internet
In April 2009, there were 193,000 children in South Australia aged 5-14 years. Of these, 79% had access to the internet in the 12 months prior to April 2009 (152,000). Of the children who had access to the internet, 69% had access to the internet at home and 71% had access to the internet at school.
Of the approximately 133,000 children that accessed the internet at home in the 12 months to April 2009, 42% accessed the internet for 2 hours or less per week and about 18% accessed the internet for more than 10 hours each week. Children who accessed the internet at home comprised 53% of the 5-8 years cohort, 74% of the 9-11 years cohort, and 84% of the 12-14 years cohort.
CHILDREN'S USE OF THE INTERNET(a), Usual weekly hours of internet use at home - South Australia - April 2009
In the 12 months to April 2009 the most predominant use of the internet at home by children was for educational activities (87%), playing online games (67%) and general web browsing (61%). Thirty three percent of children who accessed the internet at home reported using the internet for chatrooms, forums or instant messaging, and also using the internet for emailing. Of the 45,000 children aged 5 to 14 years who used the internet for chatrooms, forums or instant messaging, 71% were aged 12-14 years, with more girls engaged in these activities than boys (55% and 45% respectively).
Children's Use of Mobile Phones
In April 2009, 31% (60,000) of South Australian children aged 5-14 years owned a mobile phone, the same as the national proportion. Two thirds (66%) of children in South Australia with a mobile phone primarily used their mobile phone to contact family, whilst most of the remaining child population use their mobile phone mainly to contact friends.
CHILDREN'S USE OF MOBILE PHONES(a), Mobile used more to contact family or friends - South Australia, April 2009
Protection of Children Using the Internet and Mobile Phones
The internet offers an exciting world of experiences for children. It can be entertaining, educational and rewarding. However, using the internet involves risks and challenges with children potentially exposed to content that is sexually explicit, violent, prohibited or even illegal. Other risks include contact with strangers or cyber bullying. Similarly, mobile phone ownership by children has taken schoolyard bullying to new levels, with victims potentially exposed to persistent taunts and abuse. Parents are therefore encouraged to take an active role in talking with their children about the risks associated with the internet (Stay Smart Online) and mobile phone use.
In April 2009, nearly all South Australian households had taken some precautions to protect children from inappropriate actions on the internet. Supervision or monitoring a child's use of the internet was the most common action taken for child safety or security at home (93%), followed by educating the child about safe and appropriate use of the internet (86%), and placing the computer in a public area of the house (80%).
CHILDREN'S USE OF THE INTERNET(a), Actions taken for personal safety or security in internet use at home - South Australia, April 2009
Similarly, most South Australian families (90%) took some action for the personal safety of the child user of mobile phones. The most common method is to educate their child about the safe and appropriate use of the mobile phone (85%), while about half (49%) monitor their child's mobile phone activity. Only 2% of parents reported that their child had a personal safety or security problem with their mobile phone.
CHILDREN'S USE OF MOBILE PHONES(a), Actions taken for personal safety or security in mobile phone use - South Australia - April 2009
Both the Australian Government (Stay Smart Online) and the South Australian Government (Information Economy) recognise online safety and security are issues for the community and provide useful information on their respective web sites. Advice includes how to secure your computer online, cyber security awareness for school students, and resources for parents to help protect their children online.
Household access to computers and the internet in South Australia has steadily increased over the last decade. However, South Australia still has one of the lowest proportions of household broadband access of all states and territories. Seventy one percent of South Australian children had access to the internet at school, and 69% had access to the internet at home. For children who accessed the internet at home, 42% accessed the internet for 2 hours or less per week, and 18% accessed the internet more than 10 hours each week. Furthermore, the likelihood of children accessing the internet at home increased with age.
Children's use of the internet at home was predominantly for educational activities, playing games, general web browsing and communication (email and instant messaging). Of the children who used the internet for chatrooms, forums or instant messaging, nearly three quarters were aged 12-14 years, with more girls engaged in these activities than boys (55% and 45% respectively).
Thirty one percent of South Australian children aged 5-14 years owned a mobile phone in April 2009. Two thirds of children with a mobile phone mainly used it to contact family.
Households were generally aware of the risks associated with children using these technologies and at least 90% took precautions such as educating and supervising their child.
The South Australian and Australian governments provide valuable online resources to assist parents and children with their safety in using mobile phones and the internet.
ABS, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2008-09 (cat. no. 8146.0)
ABS, Children's Particpation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2009 (cat. no. 4901.0)
Australian Government, Stay Smart Online
Australian Government 2009, Australia in the Digital Economy: Report 2 - Online Participation
Government of South Australia, Information Economy
Government of South Australia 2007, South Australia's Strategic Plan
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