British children feel 'sad' and 'lonely' without the net?

British children feel 'sad' without an Internet connection - why?

According to a new study, British children under the age of twelve report feeling 'sad' and 'lonely' if they are not connected to the Internet.

A survey conducted by British firm Intersperience as part of the 'Digital Futures' project explored how online and digital technology is potentially affecting the daily lives of children, and how their use of technology relates to emotion, social participation and communication.

The researchers surveyed 1,000 young people in the UK between the ages of eight and 18:

  • 35 percent were aged between eight and 11;
  • 37 percent were aged 12 to 14;
  • 22 percent were aged 15 to 17.

The research also included participation among 15 volunteer families, which consisted of face-to-face interviews, communication logs and video diaries.

60 percent reported that they would be "sad" if they could not connect to the Internet, while 49 percent of under 12s admitted to this. In addition, one in five under the age of 12 claimed they would be 'lonely' without Internet access.

This may suggest an unhealthy dependence on the Internet which is beginning at an early age, or it could simply be that online networks have replaced what a children would feel 'sad' without -- whether a television, set of toy cars or bike.

'Lonely', however, may be more surprising to see on the survey. This may show an increasing level of association between digital networks and social activity, that begins at an earlier age than we could expect.

Intersperience Chief Executive Paul Hudson said:

"The fact that children have a strong emotional attachment to the Internet is often regarded as a negative thing but in fact it is perfectly natural for a generation whose social life is largely online. It's equivalent to taking a phone away from older people, they’d feel sad and lonely too."

It's not completely surprising. Children are now growing up in a data-saturated environment, that often includes technology as a resource of entertainment or a means of communication. If a means to 'stay connected' with a social group is removed, then it is a common affliction for people of any age to feel negative about such actions.

It also appears that young children are becoming sophisticated computer users more rapidly than other generations had the opportunity to. Parents involved in the study stated that toddlers, from the age of two, often dominate family iPads, and are increasingly proficient in using touch-screen technology.

Children as young as eight were reported to have experience using hard drives, and teenagers are more frequently storing information with cloud-based services. In the under 12s category, 74 percent play online games, 65 percent use the Internet for homework purposes, and more than a third use it in order to purchase or sell.

Where under 18s viewed online resources as a means of communication, learning and entertainment, teenagers displayed a marked preference for mobile Internet use -- potentially for rapid access to information, products, and social networks -- a sign that the expectancy of being able to acquire data immediately is potentially becoming ingrained in the younger generation.

Image credit: Flickr