Kids OK illegal downloads

EC study finds plenty of excuses

Children are well aware of the risks of illegal downloading, at least on a theoretical level, but often minimize or question the illegal character of the act, according to a major European Commission survey.

The children surveyed often rationalized their downloading by saying that everyone does it. Many also pointed to downloads made by their parents as an implicit form of authorization.

Other excuses included the download is for personal and private purposes; the Web sites presumably remunerate the artists; claims of harm inflicted on artists lack credibility; and DVDs and CDs are simply too expensive for children to afford.

Almost all of the children surveyed said that they expect to continue downloading. They also said that the risk of downloading a virus was far more dissuasive than the risk of legal proceedings.

Survey results, released Friday, found that most kids use the Internet several times a day and, while Internet use is to some extent limited by parents, most own their own mobile phones, the use of which is largely unsupervised.

The survey also found that children are much more attuned to such potential online risks as security, viruses, identity theft and potential dangerous contact with strangers than parents imagine, and tend to be well-aware of the precautions they need to take.

The survey, carried out in the 37 European Union member countries — as well as Norway and Iceland — found that the most popular Internet activities for children between the ages of 9 and 14 are games, surfing and communicating with friends by e-mail or instant messaging.

Girls 12-14 stay online longer, and spend most of their time on social networking sites. Boys mainly use the Internet for downloading and playing games and music, but those ages 9-10 are more inclined to search for information related to schoolwork on such sites as Wikipedia and the BBC.