UK teenagers spending the equivalent of an average adult working week online

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By Will Hazell Education Correspondent –

15-year-olds spent an average of 36 hours a week online in 2018, according to data from the OECD

Teenagers in the UK and other developed countries are spending the equivalent of an average adult working week online, research has found.

Analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the total online consumption of 15-year-olds living in OECD countries rose from an average of 21 hours a week in 2012 to 35 hours per week in 2018.

The UK was slightly above the OECD average, with 15-year-olds spending 36 hours a week online.

Denmark topped the table, with teenagers spending 47 hours a week online, while in the US they spent 41 hours a week on the internet.

In South Korea teenagers spent just 22 hours a week online, while in Japan it was 23 hours per week.

The data was harvested from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study – a detailed global education survey which takes place every three years.

It shows that the proportion of households with digital access and devices has exploded in recent years. On average across OECD nations, 88 per cent of students had both an internet connection at home and a computer they could use for schoolwork in 2018 – 28 percentage points higher than in 2003.

The most common digital skill taught at school across the developed world was students learning about the consequences of making information publicly available online – with an average of 76 per cent of students in OECD nations receiving teaching in this area (89 per cent in the UK).

The least common skill was how to detect phishing or spam emails. Just 41 per cent of students in OECD countries reported being taught this at school (53 per cent in the UK).

The analysis found “considerable differences” across countries in teaching key digital skills, such as how to recognise whether online information is biased or not. In Australia, Canada, Denmark and the US, more than 70 per cent of students received this training, but in Israel, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland it was less than 45 per cent (in the UK it was 68 per cent).

Countries with a high proportion of students taught how to detect biased information in school and a high proportion of digital access at home were more likely to distinguish fact from opinion when subject to a reading comprehension test, the analysis found.

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