Adults stall on the information superhighway

Parents are the dinosaurs of the information age, whereas kids find surfing the Net a breeze. This is the finding of a survey by NOP Research Group and the UK's largest ISP Demon Internet.

The survey revealed that 34 percent of adults polled have a poor understanding of the Internet, whereas 75 percent of children said that surfing the net is easy. While more youngsters leap into cyberspace, parents voiced concern about unsupervised access to the Net. Almost half of the adults expressed a strong desire to restrict access.

According to the survey, 98 percent of the of 981 people surveyed want their children to use the Internet for educational purposes. Having daughters will prove to be a blessing, as 52 percent of the girls polled, who were between the ages of 7 and 16, claimed that they use the Internet to do school projects, compared to 36 percent of boys.

But, conflicting results emerged from the issue of supervision and access restriction to the Net. Almost half of all adults, 45 percent, said that their child's Net access was supervised, just over a third said that access was ‘sometimes' restricted and 26 percent of the parents polled said that they had access restriction software installed. Yet, 72 percent of children claimed that they were allowed to use the Internet on their own. This could be partly explained by the finding that more children surf Cyberspace at school than in the home. 28 percent of youngsters' Internet access takes place at school compared to only 9 percent at home. Around 2 percent of parents did not know where their offspring surfed and 64 percent said their children do not use the Internet at all.

Technology and education expert Stephen Heppell, head of Anglia Polytechnic University's Ultralab, warned that adult supervision was more important than supervision by software screening packages. "You cannot defer to technology to do the job for you." However, he added that parents should trust rely on their children to use common sense: "Common sense works in Cyberspace too," Heppell added that the phrase ‘access restriction' is open to interpretation, depending on whether you are a parent, child or teacher.