Parents in Northern Ireland most cautious about the internet

18 July 2011

Parents in Northern Ireland are among the most cautious in the UK when it comes to their children's access to the internet, according to newly-published researchfrom Ofcom. According to the research, 23% of parents of children who use the internet at home in Northern Ireland do not think that the benefits of the internet outweigh any risks to their child, almost double the amount of parents of children who use the internet at home across the UK (12%). Northern Ireland parents of children who use the internet at home are, however, as likely as all UK parents of children who use the internet at home to feel that they know enough about how to help their child to stay safe when they are online (82% compared with 81%).

Ofcom's annual 'Media Literacy in the Nations' reports investigatemedia use and attitudes among children aged 5-15 and their parents/carers, and adults aged 16+, across the UK.

The research shows that parental concern in Northern Ireland extends to both television content and what children can access through their mobile phones, with 43% and 35% of parents saying they are concerned about this content respectively.

Parents in Northern Ireland are more likely than parents across the UK to be concerned about each of the following aspects of their child's mobile phone use: who their child is in contact with through the phone (31%), their child being bullied via calls/ texts/ emails to their phone (32%), and their child giving out personal details to inappropriate people (43%).

Using the internet

Over four in ten children in Northern Irelandwho use the internet at home say they mostly use the internet alone (43%) and around one quarter (23%) of Northern Ireland children have internet access in their bedroom. These figures do not differ statistically from the overall UK picture.

Compared to all UK households with children aged 5-15, children in Northern Ireland are as likely to access the internet at home through a mobile phone (10%) or through a fixed or portable games console (19%). Accessing the internet at home through a games console has increased by 8 percentage points since 2009.

Children aged 8-15 in Northern Ireland are less likely than all UK children to say they have lessons at school about the internet (63% compared with 79%) , but 96% of children in Northern Ireland say they have been given some information or advice about staying safe online.

Northern Ireland children more likely to have a television in their bedroom

While children in Northern Ireland are more likely than the UK average to have a television in their bedroom (76% compared with 65%), children aged 5-15 in Northern Ireland say they watch fewer hours of television per week (14.3 hours compared with 16.3 hours).

According to the report, parents in Northern Ireland are stricter about TV viewing compared with parents in all the other nations – 89% of parents in Northern Ireland have rules about their children's TV viewing (compared with 80% across the UK), but are no more likely to have set controls on their digital TV service (42%) or to set internet controls or filtering software on their home PC/ laptop (42%).

Use of the internet among adults

The research shows that, as with the UK overall, interest in content creation online among internet users in Northern Ireland is mostly driven by setting up a social networking site profile and uploading photos to a website. However, experience of both setting up a social networking site profile (45% compared with 54%) and uploading photos (42% compared with 53%) is less likely among users in Northern Ireland compared to all UK users. Adults in Northern Ireland claim to spend less time per week using the internet at their place of work or education than the UK average (2.1 hours compared with 3.8 hours), despite the difference in overall usage being relatively small (12.1 hours compared with 14.2 hours).

Northern Ireland adults most concerned about television content

Adults in Northern Ireland with a TV are more likely than those in the UK as a whole to have concerns about television (51% compared with 40%), as was also the case in 2009. This difference is due to adults in Northern Ireland being more likely to have concerns that relate to offensive content, such as bad language, violence or nudity (34% compared with 22%). Concern about radio content is much lower at 7% and is broadly in line with the figure for the whole of the UK (9%).

The reports for Adults' and Children's Media Literacy in the Nations can be found here:



1. The Media Literacy in the Nations report involved interviews with 239 adults and 204 children in Northern Ireland.

2. Ofcom has published a consumer guide 'Managing your media in a digital world' to help parents understand some of the issues raised by Ofcom's research. This is available on the Ofcom website at:

3. Under section 11 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to promote media literacy. Ofcom's research into media literacy informs three of Ofcom's strategic priorities: to provide appropriate assurance to audiences on standards; to help communications markets work for consumers; and to contribute and implement public policy as defined by Parliament.

4. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

5. For further information about Ofcom please visit: Ofcom's news releases can be found at: