According to new statistics, the number of Chinese Internet users (netizens) less than 10 years old has increased exponentially in the past year. The report claims that there are now approximately 3 million kids logging on, raising their percentage from total netizens from 0.3% to 0.9%, while around 80% of primary school students have access to the World Wide Web before the age of nine.
All of which seems to indicate China’s rapid transition into a digital age, and one that also bodes well in terms of equality (though it doesn’t say where and who these children are). But obviously raises some questions such as the appropriate age at which it is OK to let children use the internet, and to what purpose it is being used. The good news is that a hefty 40% of them are using it to study- or at least say they are studying- the bad news is that the majority use it to watch films, listen to music or play computer games.
Should we be worried about this? In my ever humble opinion, absolutely not. For one thing the statistics have to be taken with just a pinch of salt. 3 million under-10’s is a big number by itself but a mere fraction of China’s total population, and as shown above not even a percentage of China’s total Internet users. Indeed the number of little netizens in the UK or US eclipses this number; whilst further research shows that those with Internet access at home tend to get better grades.
Most significantly however, children are far more tech-savvy than the older generations. Whilst those of a slightly older nature were brought up to dial-up modems, floppy disks and maybe not even having a computer at home at all; the children of today have flash disks, blu ray, iphones, LCD screens and god knows what else. Given this upbringing is it unusual that under 10’s are turning to the Internet in their leisure time? Not really, in fact it is more demonstrative that the web is becoming normalized- in China as around the world- as a plaything for our children.
With this in mind, it falls to the parent to protect their child against the dangers of the web, just as the generation before were warned about excessive TV. Monitoring your child’s internet use, blocking adult or other inappropriate sites and telling your child about the risks in downloading films and music seems to be the way forward. Oh and remember to point them towards a good book every once in a while.