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Groundbreaking study on the internet habits of teenagers

Almost a quarter of teenagers are online for four or more hours a day on non-school-related work, a new study by ECU researchers has found.

A new study has found that almost a quarter of teenagers are online for four or more hours a day on non-school-related work.

A new study has found that almost a quarter of teenagers are online for four or more hours a day on non-school-related work.

The report found 85 per cent of respondents used social networks, with 75 per cent accessing sites such as Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis.

On the issue of unsolicited contact, 43 per cent of teenagers who had first met someone online later met them in real life.

However, teenagers are aware of the risks of interacting online – 60 per cent said they would tell someone before the meeting, usually a friend (82 per cent) or a parent (70 per cent).

The Tech Use and Safety Projectwas conducted by Dr Julian Dooley and Dr Adrian Scott from ECU’s Sellenger Centre for Research in Law, Justice and Social Change. They collected data from nearly 800 West Australian high school students.

The release of the study’s results coincides with international Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, 7 February 2012. The day aims to raise awareness among parents and young people on how to safely navigate the internet and interact online.

Sellenger Centre Associate Director Dr Dooley hopes that this research will inform safe internet use strategies in Australian schools and households.

“This study is the first of its kind in Australia to examine issues around social networking use and privacy. Through this research we now have very clear idea about how teenagers use technology, the risks they engage in and the safety strategies they possess,” Dr Dooley said.

Results from this study found:

  • 23% are online for four or more hours on a weekday not for school work. This increases to 40% on weekends
  • 85% use social networking sites (SNS)
  • 75% are on these sites 4-7 days a week
  • 66% have 200+ friends on their SNS. 46% have 300+
  • 73 % uploaded pictures to SNS
  • 71% have set their SNS to private
  • 41% have shared personal details online (mobile phone numbers, home phone numbers or email addresses)
  • 85 % said that privacy was important to them
  • 24 % shared their SNS passwords

“Although many students indicated that privacy was important to them, the high percentage who shared their password shows that we still have much work to do in this area,” Dr Dooley said

“Technology is advancing rapidly and children are often more advanced than their parents in accessing and using technology.”

“It is therefore imperative that we use these results to develop dynamic safety strategies that reflect the technological environment.”

“We need to guide the younger generation and the choices they make. Importantly, any safety approach must be a combination of evidence-based behavioural strategies supported by cutting-edge technological solutions.”

The Tech Use and Safety Projectis one of several innovative research initiatives currently being undertaken by the newly created Social Wellbeing and Technology Laboratory (SWAT), part of the Sellenger Centre based at the ECU’s Joondalup Campus.

SWAT will carry out research that focuses on social and group processes in the context of technology use, to further understand impacts on psychological and social health, wellbeing and safety.

For more information about Safer Internet Day, see http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/SID2012.aspx

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