The survey, “Youth 2.0 – 10 to 18-year-olds in the digital world,” found that youths use the internet more for learning that recreation. But it also reached some worrying conclusions, including that German adolescents rate using the internet and having their own computer more important than participating in sports.
The results had important implications for society, said Bitkom president August-Wilhelm Scheer, including the need for better child protection.
“Children and youths should be able to use the full potential of the internet. That's why we need the proper skills and more protection,” he said.
The study by the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom), was published in Berlin on Wednesday. It found that 98 percent of youngsters in this age group used the internet.
About one third, or 34 percent, of the 10 to 18-year-olds said they had had negative experiences on the internet. Some 18 percent said they had been harassed by other internet users or offended by content they had found. Generally, older children were more likely to fall into this category.
Scheer said children found it more effective to insult or verbally abuse one another on the internet than in person because the words remained online permanently for anyone to read.
Disturbingly, 9 percent said they had been sexually harassed on the internet – a figure that was lopsided along gender lines with just 3 percent of boys but 16 percent of girls reporting harassment.
Monitoring of such abuse or harassment by the youngsters' parents was limited, Scheer said, partly because parents were often less technically adept than their children.
Only 27 percent of parents had set up a child protection system for their 10 to 12-year-olds. The figure fell to 16 percent for 13 to 15-year-olds and 5 percent for 16 to 18-year-olds.
The significance young people accord to internet access is high, with 86 percent saying it was important or very important to them. Having one's own computer rated 76 percent.
These figures were lower than those for family, which 98 percent rated important or very important, friends, which rated 96 percent, and good school marks, on 93 percent. But they were higher than sport, which 75 percent rated as important or very important, and household pets, which 63 percent rated as such.
Having a modern mobile phone rated 58 percent in importance, while owning the latest computer games rated 29 percent.
The study also showed that youngsters use the internet more for education than for fun. Some 73 percent said they used it to watch films and videos, 63 percent to listen to music and 48 percent to play online games. But 76 percent said they used the web to search for information for school or training and 40 percent said they used it to read the news.
Nearly three quarters, or 74 percent, are active in some kind of online community. Writing emails, by contrast, is almost an outdated activity to many of them, with just 52 percent saying they used the internet for that reason.
By and large, the youngsters are careful with personal data, with 58 percent saying they allow personal information to be seen only be particular friends on particular communities such as Facebook. Some 14 percent say they let anyone see their information but only on particular communities.
This includes information such as relationship status, which can be seen by millions of other users. Some 5 percent of respondents said they let anyone on the internet, regardless of the community or the website, see their data.
The study questioned 737 children and youths and was carried out by the Forsa polling firm on behalf of Bitkom.