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Education for the Net Generation - 2. Survey of Children and Parents Concerning Internet Use: A Japan-U.S. Comparison (1)

Japanese Chinese

In the article Information Literacy, from the perspective of information literacy across the dimension of subjects, I have introduced some questions from the international framework of PISA that are used to monitor student's educational progress. Here, in my second article on the subject of children on the Internet, I will introduce a survey of children and parents in Japan and the U.S. regarding Internet use.

1. Hours and Activities of Children's Internet Use

Figure 1 shows a comparison of children's average daily Internet usage in Japan and the U.S. The survey found that close to 90 percent of Japanese children spend an average of less than three hours on the Internet daily. The largest group are children who spend an average of less than one hour, representing 55.4 percent of the total. The second largest group are children who spend an average of more than one hour and less than three hours, representing 34.2 percent of the childhood population surveyed.

In contrast, only 11.3 percent of American children responded that they spend an average of less than one hour per day on the Internet. The largest group are children who spend an average of more than one hour and less than three hours, represent 41.2 percent of the total. Furthermore, 23.7 percent spend an average of more than three hours and less than five hours, about 10 percent spend an average of more than five hours and less than seven hours, and about 11.6 percent spend an average of more than seven hours. Obviously, there are more American children who spend longer hours on the internet than Japanese children.


Figure 1: Children's Internet Usage Survey: Average Daily Usage in Japan and U.S.

Figure 2 shows children's activities on the Internet. There is no significant difference between children in Japan and U.S in terms of buying items online, visiting chat rooms and bulletin boards, blogging, doing research for homework, and playing online video games. However, about 80 percent of American children said they download music, while less than 50 percent of Japanese children responded 'yes' to this question. Similarly, about 80 percent of American children use the Instant Messenger (IM) and 70 percent use the social networking services (SNS), but for Japanese children, only 20 percent use IM and 10 percent use SNS.

One of reasons for such differences may be attributed to the difference in the degree of popularity of SNS between the U.S. and Japan. SNS services such as MySpace are very popular among children in the U.S. while SNS services are not popular in Japan. There are fewer services available for Japanese children to access and even those services such as Japan's Mixi requires a minimum age of 18. In addition, other services such as downloading music and IM can be used through SNS, thus it is presumed that the low usage rate of such services among Japanese children is a result of SNS services not being promoted in Japan and therefore unable to become popular.


Figure 2: Children's Internet Usage Survey: Frequency of Internet Activities in Japan and U.S. (Note: Yellow-highlighted activities show a significant difference between Japanese and American children)

2. Risks of Internet Usage

Above surveys show that Japanese children do not use the Internet as long as American children and they do not use the services like IM, SNS and downloading music as frequently as American children. However, children are exposed to various risks when they go online which is of another concern to parents. Figure 3, 4, 5 show the results of the survey, through the use of a questionnaire, on parents and children. The following questions were posed to parents and children respectively, 'Has your child ever had the following experience on the Internet within the past one year?" and 'Have you ever had the following experience on the Internet?' The question in Figure 3 relating to cyber-bullying; children were asked whether they had any experience of being bullied via emails, chatting rooms, instant messaging, etc. and parents are asked whether their child had such an experience. Figure 3 shows that a higher rate of children both in Japan and US responded 'yes' compared to their parents. Apparently, there are parents who do not know their child has been the subject of cyber-bullying. Also, it shows that 17.4 percent of American children were cyber-bullied while only 3.3 percent of Japanese children were, therefore, it can be said that the cyber-bullying is still a minor trend in Japan.


Figure 3: Cyber-Bullying

Figure 4 shows the results of a survey among Japanese and American parents and children comparing the number of children who had received invitations made over the Internet to meet someone they did not know and to what degree the parents were aware of this. Only 18.8 percent of American children responded 'yes', however, 22.3 percent of Japanese children had received such invitation. On the other hand, only 4.6 percent of Japanese parents knew that their child had received such invitation, while 6.1 percent of American parents knew about it. This proved that more Japanese children had been contacted online by complete strangers than American children, and American parents were more aware of such events in comparison to their Japanese counterparts.


Figure 4: Invitation from strangers

Figure 5 compares the results of the survey on parents and children, by asking whether children have ever received a sexually explicit email or pop-up advertisement. There is no significant difference between children in Japan and the U.S.; 37.2 percent of American children and 33.8 percent of Japanese children responded 'yes.' However, about 30 percent of American parents knew about that, while only 10 percent of Japanese parents said 'yes'.


Figure 5: Receiving a sexually explicit email or pop-up advertisement

There are fewer discrepancies of knowledge between parents and children in the U.S. compared to those of Japan concerning a sexually explicit email or pop-up advertisement. A considerable number of Japanese parents do not know their children have seen such an email or advertisement. Therefore, parent's commitment to understanding their children's online activities should be an issue that needs to be addressed in the future.

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