Privacy on the Internet is yesterday's news – at least as far as today's young people are concerned. This is made clear by the findings of the SWITCH Junior Web Barometer 2013 survey, in which 510 school students answered in-depth questions about their online behaviour.
Regardless of the ongoing debates on data security and identity protection on the Internet, the younger generation willingly discloses personal information online. Just over 80% of 13 to 20-year-olds and an increasing proportion of the six to 12 age group can be found by anyone on the Internet with their real name or a photo. Date of birth, favourite hobbies and current relationship status are also shared openly with the networked community. Why? Because it is "cool", reply children, teenagers and young adults. Some 62% of young people use the Internet every day. On a normal weekday, 22% of six to 12-year-olds, 47% of 13 to 16-year-olds and 57% of 17 to 20-year-olds spend at least one hour surfing.
Once they are on the Internet, 13 to 20-year-olds use it for one thing above all: chatting, chatting and more chatting – most commonly using the mobile instant messaging service WhatsApp. Among six to 12-year-olds, meanwhile, watching music videos on YouTube is all the rage.
According to the SWITCH Junior Web Barometer, Internet-enabled devices are becoming more commonplace across all age groups, even six to 12-year-olds. They are also increasingly mobile: whereas 61% of children in this age group owned neither a mobile phone nor a tablet computer in 2012, only 21% of them do not have a mobile device today.
At the same time, the scope for parents to control their children's Internet use appears to be diminishing. Most six to 12-year-olds, for example, can surf the Internet on their own phone or tablet without express permission from their parents: 30% can do so for as long as they want, 40% can chat with anyone they want, and 45% can share any content they want. By the time they reach the 17 to 20 age group at the latest, they are subject to virtually no more parental rules or controls regarding their Internet use.
Young people rate their knowledge highly. In the six to 12 age group, 70% believe their Internet know-how is good to very good. In the 13 to 20 age group, this figure is as high as 90%. The older they get, the more children doubt their own parents' Internet skills: 60% of 17 to 20-year-olds give them a poor to very poor rating.
The survey also showed that parents need to teach their children media skills before they finish primary school. One way to do this – which met with a positive response among survey participants – would be with courses of lessons on how to use social networks. Assuming these were to be held at school, 48% of six to 12-year-olds and 41% of 13 to 16-year-olds would be in favour of them. Even 38% of young adults would welcome them.
As a partner of the universities, SWITCH brought the Internet to Switzerland 25 years ago. Today, the non-profit organisation with 100 employees at its headquarters in Zurich develops Internet services for lecturers, researchers and students, as well as for commercial customers. SWITCH stands for security on the Internet.