Primary-age children are connected, mobile and social. Parents and carers see evidence of this every day – children appear to be going online younger and younger, with the rapid uptake (and almost hypnotic appeal) of tablets and other touch screen devices. But anecdotal evidence is also supported by research findings. In 2013, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released Like, post, share: Young Australian’s experience of social media and some of the highlights included:
- The vast majority (95 per cent) of eight to 11 year olds had accessed the internet ‘in the last four weeks’, with almost all having accessed the internet at some point in their lives.
- Children in this age group use multiple internet-enabled devices (up to three) for a 10 to 11 year old. And these are all sorts of devices, not just computers and laptops but also handheld mobile devices such as iPads, iPods and game consoles (Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portables, PlayStations).
- Thirty-seven per cent of eight to nine year olds and 51 per cent of 10 to 11 year olds have – at some time – accessed the internet via a handheld mobile device.
- Mobile phone ‘ownership’ increases significantly with age. The report found that 11 per cent of eight to nine year olds have their own mobile phone, increasing to 67 per cent of 12 to 13 year olds. (According to 2012 ABS data1, 29 per cent of children aged five to 14 years of age have a mobile phone.)
- While the majority in this age group accesses the internet at home, increasing numbers are using technology at school and at a friends’ house, away from direct parental supervision.
Even at this young age children are avid social media users. Forty-five per cent of eight to 11 year olds use social networking sites2. For the eight to 11 year olds the report found that the top four sites were YouTube, Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin and Facebook*, with the most popular activities being playing games, private messaging, posting comments and posting status updates. In other words, they ‘like’, they post, they share just the same as their older counterparts. And they value it, very much. In fact, the proportion of eight to nine year olds who rated the internet as ‘very important’ had doubled since 2009.
*To be eligible to sign up for a Facebook page, children must be at least 13 years old.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, October 2012, Internet and Mobile phones
2 Connected Parents in the Cybersafety Age