A recent study called âDigital World, Digital Lifeâ conducted by market researcher TNS Global, has revealed that more than half of all adults who first made contact online go on to meet face to face . More than 27,000 participants aged 18 to 55 across 16 countries were interviewed. Of the 2,500 UK web-users that were surveyed, 58 % (6 in 10) said they had met an internet âfriendâ in person , 45 % had telephone conversations with friends who were previously just online acquaintances. “What comes out in this survey is that we are actively engaging with people online, but we haven’t lost the knack for conventional social contact. At the same time, online acquaintances are now perceived by most of us as real acquaintances. This is underlined by the high percentages of people who, having first met people online, go on to meet them in person or at least by talking on the phone. But behind that is the sense of worry among our respondents who clearly express concern about the true online identity of these apparent friends.” Arno Hummerston, TNS Global managing director.
This report echoes statistics for that of young people; CEOP estimate that 1 in 4 young people (11-16) years have met an online friend.Can we still advise young people not to meet online friends when so many adults are doing it themselves?
Has the time now come for us to educate them how to meet such âfriendsâ safely such as taking an adult they trust with them, meeting in a public place and not giving away personal information etc.
For me, the fact people are meeting online friends is not the biggest concern; it’s the fact that of those young people who met an online friend only 1/4 of them took someone with them, and of those who did take someone, 83% took a friend and not an adult. Of the adults questioned in the ‘Digital Life, Digital World’ survey, only 37% said they could not be sure of an internet contact’s identity. So are we as much at risk as young people?