Ofcom has published (on 17 July) detailed statistics from the first wave (20th April to 17th May 2009) of what it calls its Media Literacy tracker. What looks like a robust stratified sample (by social class, geographic location, age, gender) of 1000 British children and their parents have been asked a large number of questions (200 pages of statistical tables; no narrative is given). The children are split into 3 age groups, spanning between them age 5-15.
With that amount of data, I could only skim through, but this ongoing survey will itself be worth tracking. It starts with questions about access to different kinds of digital tools (TV, computer, MP3 player, radio, games consoles, mobile phone etc.), and whether children have access in their own rooms or to household equipment. Overall 65% had TVs in their bedrooms and 19% networked computers (although 35% of those in the oldest age group had networked computers). 76% of children had access to a networked PC somewhere in the house, and whereas there was not that much difference in social class as regards having their own PC, 91% of children in the highest social class had access somewhere in teh house, versus 56% of those in the lowest social class.
A bigger % of boys had games consoles, and a bigger % of girls had DVD players. Another thing I noticed was that children in the highest social class were least likely to have a mobile phone or a TV in their room. Actually one thing you learn from the statistics is that you shouldn't make assumptions about "everyone" having this or that technology, and also that you shouldn't make assumptions about who is most likely to have access to the technologies.
There are then questions about use of TV, radio and the internet: how much time the children spend on them, whether there are restrictions on what they do/watch, whether parents are concerned about their children's viewing, whether they use parental controls. There are a lot of questions to do with concerns about the internet, use of mobile phones, and use of computer games. 11% of parenets disagreed with the statement that the benefits of the internet outweigh any risks and 50% agreed that their child knew more about the internet than they did. There is a lot of detail about what children use the internet for - photo sharing sites score the lowest and doing schoolwork rates highest, followed by playing games online.
There are various questions to do with whether people believe what they see/read on TV, internet etc. is true. With the question "When you use the internet to visit sites where people can add and change information, like blogs or sites like Wikipedia... Do you believe that all of the information you see is true, most of it is true or just some of it is true?" only 12% thought it was all true, but it was only a relatively small number that said they looked at them in those kinds of sites first place.
There are a number of questions to do with use of, and confidence with, social networking sites. Twitter certainly hasn't made an impact on 5-15 year olds, by the way.
Coming even closer to information literacy, 94% of 12-15 year olds who used the internet were very or fairly confident that they "can find what [they] want when [they] go online". Of those who had used search engines 32% thought that "The most truthful results are shown at the top of the list". 78% were aware that downloading music etc. could be illegal.
I found this report at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/stats/ The Ofcom site is always a mine of useful information about telecommunications and media in the UK (Ofcom is the UK communications official "watchdog")
Photo by Sheila Webber: my two red roses, August 2009.