Children discover the Internet from the age of 5

Always more connected, and earlier and earlier. By the age of 11, nearly nine out of ten children are already using the Internet in some countries around the world, a study by the Mozilla Foundation reveals.

While France is an exception, with a higher starting age than some of its European neighbors, some issues are nonetheless troubling for parents, who are particularly concerned about online safety.

At what age did you introduce your children to the Internet? A seemingly simple question that nevertheless evokes repeated controversy and debate, if not some guilt among parents anxious to prevent any potential addiction of their cherubs to screens. On average, children are primarily introduced to the Internet between the ages of 5 and 8, according to a new study by the Mozilla Foundation* of more than 3,500 parents of children aged 5 to 17 living in the United States, Canada, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. However, a later age, in Germany and France, as children discover the Internet there on average at the age of 7 and 8.

Bound by 2 years

In detail, 36% of American parents say they introduce their children to the Internet between the ages of 2 and 5, compared to 35% and 34% for Canadian and British parents. A percentage that drops to 21% for German parents and 16% for French parents. On the other hand, the latter are more likely to introduce their children to the functioning of the Internet at the age of 5-8 and 8-11 years (36% and 32%, respectively). It should also be noted that in France, 3% of teenagers explore the Internet for the first time between the ages of 14 and 17.

As for the average time spent online, according to the study, it averages four hours a day for all countries, although disparities remain. More than eight in ten French parents (87%) allow their children to use the Internet for up to 4 hours a day, but almost half (47%) still set a daily limit of one hour. Thus, in France, the average is set at 2 hours per day. In the United States, a country where children appear to be online longer, only 57% of parents set the daily limit at 4 hours a day, while 20% allow them to surf between 5 and 7 a day and 7% between 8 and 10 a.m.

Safety in focus

According to the French parents surveyed, school, and more specifically homework and other school needs, would be the main reason for which they would introduce their children to the use of the Internet (43%). But it is not the only one. This is followed by watching entertainment videos (40%), accessing games (29%), the need to keep in touch with family and friends (22%) and, to a lesser extent, online shopping (3% ). Which is even more important in the United States (8%).

But how do children actually use the Internet? Of course, not as much as parents hope, as school needs only come in third place (54%) behind watching entertainment videos (67%) and playing games (61%). Online shopping would also be more important than parents expected, at 9%.

That’s not what parents worry about the most when it comes to navigation. Security is at the top of the concerns caused by internet usage. Furthermore, nearly three quarters of French parents (73%) believe that the Internet is not a safe space. An opinion shared by only 56% of American parents and 58% of Canadian parents. In France, exposure to inappropriate content (61%) is a particular concern for parents, given the threat posed by online predators (51%) and cyberbullying (50%). An observation that prompts parents to make their children aware of this type of risk at an earlier and earlier age, from the age of 5 in France.

*The survey was conducted between September 21 and 29, 2022, via an online questionnaire, among 3,699 parents aged 25 to 55, residing in the United States, Canada, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. United and with children aged 5 to 17. The sample is representative of the general population, balanced and weighted by age, gender, region, education.

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