Children are increasingly getting online, and at an earlier age
Published on: Saturday, January 28, 2023
By: ETX Daily Up, FMT
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36% of US parents say they introduced their children to the internet between the ages of 2 and 5. (Envato Elements pic)
PARIS: At what age did you first introduce your children to the internet? This seemingly simple question nevertheless stirs up controversy and debate, if not a certain amount of guilt on the part of parents concerned about preventing their children from becoming addicted to screens.

On average, children are essentially introduced to the internet between the ages of five and eight, according to a new study conducted by the Mozilla Foundation with more than 3,500 parents of children between the ages of five and 17 in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

However, children in Germany and France tend to discover the internet later, at the ages of seven and eight, respectively.

In detail, 36% of US parents say they introduced their children to the internet between the ages of two and five, compared with 35% and 34% for Canadian and British parents. This figure drops to 21% for parents in Germany and 16% for those in France.

French parents are more likely to introduce their children to the web at the age of five to eight, or eight to 11 (36% and 32%, respectively). Interestingly, in France, 3% of teenagers explore the web for the first time between 14 and 17 years old.

The average time spent online averages four hours per day for all countries, although disparities exist. More than eight out of 10 French parents (87%) allow their children to use the internet for up to four hours a day, but nearly half (47%) still impose a daily limit of one hour.

In France, the average is two hours a day. In the US, where children seem to be online the longest, 57% of parents set the daily limit at four hours, while 20% allow them to surf between five and seven hours a day, and 7% between eight and 10 hours.

School, and more precisely homework and other related needs – appears to be the main reason for parents introducing their kids to the web. (Envato Elements pic)

Online safety

According to the French parents questioned, school – more precisely homework and related needs – appears to be the main reason for introducing their children to the internet (43%).

Next comes watching entertainment videos (40%), accessing games (29%), keeping in touch with family and friends (22%), and, to a lesser extent, shopping online (3%). This last reason is more important in the US (8%).

But how do children really use the internet? Clearly not in the way parents expect, since school needs only come third (54%), behind watching entertainment videos (67%) and gaming (61%). Online shopping also appears to be more significant than parents expect, at 9%.

Still, these aren’t what parents are most concerned about when it comes to surfing the web. Safety is the No. 1 worry when it comes to internet use. In fact, nearly three quarters of French parents (73%) believe the internet is not a safe place – an opinion shared by 56% of American parents and 58% of Canadian parents.

In France, exposure to inappropriate content (61%) is of particular concern to parents, ahead of the threat posed by online predators (51%) and cyberbullying (50%). This observation leads parents to make their children aware of these types of dangers at an increasingly early age, from five years old in France.