Swedish children take their first steps… on the web

Sweden - More than 50 % of Swedish 5-year-old children used the Internet in 2008, according to a study by Olle Findahl, research director at the World Internet Institute in Sweden.

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Sweden - More than 50 % of Swedish 5-year-old children used the Internet in 2008, according to a study by Olle Findahl, research director at the World Internet Institute in Sweden.

In his study “Will children start to use the Internet when they start walking? "Prof. Olle Findahl, whose main object of study for the past ten years has been the Internet, explains that in all rich and industrialized countries an overwhelming majority of young people aged 12 and over use the Internet.

Mr. Findahl argues that Internet use does not stop at school-age children. Even preschoolers are now affected by the Internet phenomenon.

The researchers are amazed at the tangent the Internet has taken since the overall picture of Internet users was different when they conducted their first survey eight years ago. At that time, the 30-40 year olds were the heaviest users of the Internet. The students also used the Internet, but there was no question of small children.

Children are now using the Internet, of course. But how much time do they spend on the Internet? And what use (s) do they make of it?

Almost all Swedes (94 %) have access to the Internet. This means that young people are growing up in an environment where the Internet is omnipresent. They can take their first steps on the web and on the ground simultaneously.

In 2008, more than 20 % of 3-year-olds were using the Internet. The percentage increases to 51 % when it comes to 5-year-olds. Among those who were nine years old, the proportion was over 90 %. From the age of 11, non-Internet users are almost non-existent.

However, usage time is limited in preschool children. According to the parents' estimate, the youngest spend an average of one hour per week on the Web. It is only around the age of 10 that young people begin to use the Internet daily, with marked use of up to 18 hours per week, around the age of 16. Daily use persists for up to about 30 years.

Is there a link to be made between the frequency of use by parents and that of young people? Yes, but less than what the researchers expected. More than 75 % of 12-16 year olds use the Internet daily compared to 59 % of parents and 8 % of parents rarely or never use the Internet compared to only 1 % of young people.

Although some parents said they did not have Internet access, their children still admitted to being Internet users. In fact, of the 18 young people whose parents do not have access to it, 17 use the Internet. Of these, 10 even estimate to use it daily.

3-6 years
Most Swedish children have their first contact with the Internet through online games. The multitude of games available lead children to use the Internet more and more often, until they become regular users. By the time they start school, three out of four children are comfortable with the Internet.

7-10 years
When they learn to read and write, a whole new world opens up for young people. They can now search the Internet for information, but more importantly, they can chat with their friends through instant messaging. Online chatting is quickly becoming their most frequent activity, even if they don't give up games. Some will also use the Internet for their homework, but it is rather rare at this age.

11-14 years
Of these, three in four young people use the Internet daily for various activities. Games and instant messaging remain popular, but they are also starting to take an interest in social media. A few will also try the experience of online shopping. In addition, the use of the Internet for school work is starting to be more frequent.

On another note, Olle Fandahl briefly discusses the mobile phone. In 2008, many parents allowed their children to have one well before adolescence. Access to a cell phone tends to increase as children reach school age. In Sweden, half of children aged 8 and 9 have a mobile phone. There are even preschoolers who have one. They are, however, few in number.

By Marie-Christine Leblanc

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