According to a study into children’s safety and how they use the internet, European kids appear to have a basic grasp of the law when it comes to file-sharing. However, they aren’t really bothered by it and just carry on downloading – music in particular.
The ‘Eurobarometer’ study covers many aspects of electronic communication used by kids between the ages of 9 and 14 but of course, we’re interested in the internet section and in particular, file-sharing.
When asked how they ‘learned’ how to use the internet, many of the children said they couldn’t remember – an indication of how early in a child’s life computers are introduced these days and summed up nicely by a 9-10 year old boys group from the Netherlands: “There is nothing to learn” and from a group of German boys: “It is in my blood. I am a computer freak.”
Most say that they were shown the basics but went on to teach themselves and other people, including their parents: “My parents do not teach me, I teach them!” (Boys group, 12-14 years, Ireland)
In respect of file-sharing, the 9-10 year old groups didn’t show much interest, the complete opposite of the 12-14 year olds, especially the boys who really enjoyed downloading new games.
It’s obvious from the samples given in the report that those kids questioned in the older groups had some grasp of the law relating to file-sharing. However, the bad news for those planning on enforcing copyright law on them when they become adults is that they don’t really care about it. Right across the European countries questioned, for the kids, awareness of the law didn’t really translate into a concern for operating within it.
Amongst the kids there was generally an attitude of “everyone is doing it, so i’ll do it too”. Add this to the fact that many kids watch their parents file-sharing: “Dad does it all the time” (Girls group, 12-14 years old from Norway), there’s a real challenge for the media companies in trying to get these kids to stop or change habits in the future.
A group of 9-10 year old Belgian girls share the opinions of millions of file-sharers world-wide when they said: “But I do not understand that it is illegal”.
The older boys group (12-14 years) from Denmark said: “It’s illegal, but it does not look like it is illegal” while the girls from the same age group in Belgium proclaimed: “It is wrong but not our fault”.
Almost nailing current perception of European copyright law, the 12-14 year old boys group in Finland claimed “Downloading is illegal, it is not punishable whereas sharing the files is punishable”. It’s generally felt that downloading is not an offense in Europe, where uploading probably is.
The French boys get it totally right when they said: “People download, but if is just for themselves, it is less serious than downloading for burning and reselling”. Indeed, selling copyright material is generally a criminal offense whereas file-sharing is nearly always a civil issue in Europe.
The older boys from the UK could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion they came to: “I don’t really feel guilty. It wouldn’t be on the Internet if it was like really illegal, they wouldn’t have it there”.
The older Czech boys felt that paying for stuff wasn’t necessary: “They have a lot of money ! They don’t need my money”, an opinion shared by the Italians: “I really don’t care, it’s not my problem. Singers and actors are rich enough”.
Having paid their ISP for their internet connection, the 12-14 year old boys from Portugal feel they have done their part: “We pay because we are spending megabits!”
Most of the children when questioned said they intend to carry on downloading and nothing is likely to stop them, however something that continually crops up in the internet part of the report is the concern the children have for downloading a virus. Indeed this is their major concern, although a 9-10 year old boys group from Slovakia had a solution:
“… Just download anti-virus software.”
The report can be downloaded here.
Thanks to Chris Pirillo for the great artwork