Report Reveals What Cyber-Savvy Kids Know that Adults Don't

U.S. parents think kids are online two hours a month, but kids report spending 20 hours a month online.

by / February 14, 2008

Parents, do you have a clue about how your kids are spending their time online? How about you, what are you doing online? Are you talking to strangers? Do you like your online friends better than your offline friends? Ever use the Internet to find a date, pay a bill or play a game? Wonder how you compare to the rest of the world?

Symantec wanted to know how Internet users and their families spent their time online, so they commissioned Harris Interactive to ask thousands of children and adults across the globe about their online behaviors. Specifically, they surveyed Internet users in the U.S., UK, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, China and Japan about anything and everything "Internet" then catalogued the feedback in our first-ever Norton Online Living Report.

It was discovered that about half of adult Internet users (52 percent) around the world report having made friends online, leading us to believe that the old adage of "don't talk to strangers" doesn't apply when in online worlds. More surprising was that about half of users who made friends online (46 percent) said they enjoyed those relationships as much or more than friendships made offline. Other online activities ranking high around the world are dating (23 percent), using social networking sites (50 percent), and playing games (72 percent).

What the World's Kids are doing Online...

Moms and dads, think you know what your kids are doing online? Consider this ... parents in the U.S. think their kids are online two hours a month, but in reality, kids report spending 20 hours a month online. And, 41 percent of U.S. teens ages 13-17 years old agree that their parent have no idea what they are looking at online. Here's what kids are really doing online:

  • Making friends. About a third of U.S. online children ages 8-17 have made friends online (35 percent). When you look at teens, the percentage increases, with 50 percent of U.S. teens ages 13-17 reporting they have made friends with people online. One in three U.S. children (33 percent) report that they prefer to spend time with their online friends the same amount or more than their offline friends.
  • Social networking. Seventy-six percent of U.S. teens ages 13-17 years old "constantly," "frequently" or "sometimes" visit social networking sites. Globally, about half of boys (51 percent) and girls (48 percent) visit social networking sites. Kids take after their parents when it comes to social networking: 47 percent of U.S. parents "constantly," "frequently" or "sometimes" use social networks while 46 percent of U.S. children report the same. When you look at China, the numbers are 78 percent of adults and 85 percent of children.
  • Shopping online. About one in three (35 percent) U.S. children report being "very confident" or "confident" in shopping online. This number shoots to 69 percent among children in China.
  • Getting requests for personal information. About 4 in 10 U.S. teens (42 percent) ages 13-17 have received an online request for personal information.
  • Being approached by strangers. U.S. children report that 16 percent of them have been approached online by a stranger; however, U.S. adults believe that just 6 percent of children have been approached online by a stranger.

Perhaps most shocking -- on average, only a third (33 percent) of parents worldwide set parental controls and monitor their children's online activities.

More From the Norton Online Living Report...

  • Blog-o-rama! About a third of online adults globally work on their personal blog at least sometimes (32 percent). But, this number skyrockets to a whopping 86 percent among Chinese and 44 percent among Brazilians.
  • "Mousing" for a date. More men (26 percent) globally than woman (19 percent) report that they have dated online.
  • Extra! Extra! Consumers get the scoop online. Across the globe, Internet users report reading their news online at nearly an equal rate as they read it in traditional printed newspapers and magazines. Seventy-nine percent report reading news from online sites or blogs at least an hour a month, compared to 85 percent who report reading news from a printed newspaper or magazine at least one hour per month.
  • Beauty & Fashion. About half of adult online users across the globe get beauty and/or fashion advice online at least "sometimes" (48 percent). China leads the pack with 82 percent of online users reporting that they get beauty and/or fashion advice online.
  • Internet users ring up online sales. About half of online users feel confident shopping online (53 percent), with confidence strongest in the UK (78 percent) and the U.S. (63 percent). The region having the least amount of confidence in online shopping is Japan, where just 33 percent of online users report being "confident" in shopping online.
  • XXX Online. About 4 in 10 online adults in all countries report visiting pornographic Web sites (41 percent), with about one-half of Chinese (51 percent) and Brazilians (55 percent) reporting doing the same. Globally, men (58 percent) are much more likely to visit porn sites than women (18 percent).
  • Goofing around. About 4 in 10 adult users (38 percent) own a video game console, except in Germany were it dips to about 2 in 10 adults (24 percent).
  • No duh. Nearly all adults across all countries e-mail at least sometimes (99 percent).

The Experts Chime In

"Parents are in the dark when it comes to knowing what their kids are doing online," said Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate for Symantec. "They don't have a clue how much time their kids are spending online. They don't know where their kids are going when they are online. And, they certainly don't know who their kids are talking to online. This report clearly demonstrates a global digital divide between parents and their cyber-savvy children. We've always taught our children not to talk to strangers in the offline world, and now we must teach our children how to safely exist in an online world filled with strangers."

"Two-way communications technologies -- things like VoIP, chat and instant message -- were seamlessly integrated into online games, virtual worlds, e-commerce sites and more. The integration happened so rapidly that we never stopped to think that we were really connecting with strangers... albeit in an online world," said Dave Cole, Senior Product Manager for Norton by Symantec. "It's only natural that the relationships that were born online would eventually migrate to the offline world. What surprised us was how fast this migration has occurred and how deeply it has infiltrated nearly every activity, from online dating and networking to online baking and information seeking."