Teens prefer web over TV


25 Jan 2006

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Teenagers are more likely to be found in front of a computer surfing the internet rather than watching the television, research by internet firm Arekibo Communications on behalf of the Ombudsman for Children reveals.

“Our feedback suggests that parents today are far more likely to find their teenage children at home in front of a computer screen than a TV,” commented Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children. “This information shows that teenagers much prefer the internet to TV because it gives them greater freedom, choice and is more interactive.”

The research was conducted during a workshop carried out by Arekibo on behalf of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. The workshop was conducted as part of a programme by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to work with young people over a number of months to get their input on the design, functionality, content and layout of a new website. Arekibo analysed in-depth uses of and attitudes to the internet by a sample of teenagers over a day.

“Today’s children and young people are highly sophisticated internet users – probably more so than most adults,” added Martin Casey, managing director of Arekibo Communications who conducted the workshop. “They do use the web to watch TV but are more likely to use email; instant messaging and SMS (texting) over the web. They also like the convenience and availability of the web to pursue their interests, studies and hobbies.”

One typical 14-year-old girl said that the internet allowed her to do what she wanted, when she wanted within the confines of her parents’ child protection software. Whereas with TV she is more restricted to watching what’s on at a particular time.

“The feedback indicates that teenagers are no longer treating TV as wallpaper but becoming much more selective in their viewing habits than many adults, whether that is Neighbours, X Factor or Dream Team,” Casey added. “They are highly sophisticated search engine users, mostly Google or Yahoo!, and so are also quite specific in what they want to access from the web.”

The research was conducted as part of a programme to make the website of the Office of the Ombudsman for Children as relevant as possible to its target audience.

“We were surprised to find that, without exception, the teenagers we meet chose the Internet over TV,” said Logan. “This is important learning for us because they are a really important group for us to communicate the role of our office to, in a way that they find interesting and relevant.”

Arekibo’s findings suggest that the information teenagers would find most useful include tips on moving schools and making friends, exam and study advice, information on children’s rights and problems in the home.

They are particularly interested in sharing other teenagers’ experiences and ideas. “While young people like their personal space, they appreciate parental concern about potential internet abuses,” Logan added.

By John Kennedy