Computer UsageOfcom, a citizen and consumer advocacy group formed under an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom, recently completed a survey of media literacy (PDF) within the country. The survey consisted of 1,824 in-depth interviews conducted between April and October 2009 with adults over the age of 16. Ofcom conducted similar studies in 2007 and 2005. The purpose of the research is to develop and promote media literacy among the groups interviewed. It’s an important goal for Ofcom because, as the report says:

Media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make full use of the opportunities presented both by traditional and by new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications, and protect themselves and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.

According to the organization’s research, most U.K. Internet users are becoming more aware of security issues and are less likely to provide personal information online. Some other findings from the 2010 U.K. Adults’ Media Literacy report include:

  • 71 percent of households have Internet access
  • 73 percent use the Internet at home or elsewhere (compared to 63 percent in 2007 and 59 percent in 2005)
  • 31 percent use an alternative device, such as a mobile phone, to access the Internet
  • Roughly 60 percent describe themselves as very confident Internet users
  • Approximately 25 percent of users lack confidence in installing security features or software
  • Internet usage mostly falls under communication (78 percent), finding information online for work (36 percent, down from 48 percent in 2007), social networking (35 percent), and entertainment (34 percent)
  • Twice as many Internet users now have a social networking site profile than in 2007 (44 percent vs. 22 percent)
  • 77 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds have a social networking profile
  • Nine out of 10 social networking users have a profile on Facebook
  • 80 percent of users with a social networking profile are now more likely to only allow friends or family to see it, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2007
  • Half of all users say that using the Internet has increased their contact with friends or family who live further away, and around 25 percent say it has increased their contact with friends who live nearby
  • Eight in 10 users have saved money by using the Internet over the past six months
  • 48 percent say they have made significant savings by comparing prices online or shopping online rather than in physical stores
  • 30 percent now prefer to check their bank balance online compared with 22 percent in 2005
  • 36 percent now prefer to book holidays online or by email, making it as popular as booking in person.

Ofcom supports Get Safe Online, a joint effort of U.K. government and other public and private sponsors. The website provides free advice on safe Internet practices for individuals and small businesses on topics such as avoiding online ripoffs, stopping identity theft, using your smartphone securely, and protecting your computer. The advice is applicable across a broad spectrum and is not strictly helpful to only U.K. residents.

Source: “UK internet users becoming more security conscious,”, 05/17/10
Source: “UK Adults’ Media Literacy,” Ofcom research document (PDF), 05/17/10
Image by NIOSH, used under its Creative Commons license.

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