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There is already substantial pressure on children and parents from school to use the internet for research and homework, on the assumption that they all have access at home. A nine-year-old boy commented: “I’ve got to get it for senior school. My cousin has it; you have to in year seven.”

Children who don’t have home internet access believe that they have inferior technical skills to those who do. The report also found that children who are already on the outside of their social peer group risk becoming further isolated without internet access but once connected this can improve.

While most parents could not imagine family life without the internet, they did report some pitfalls. Some parents without any rules over internet use said that they have less interaction as a family and feel that they have lost their children to their bedrooms. Some parents expressed fears about the potential security threats to their children. When asked about this, one father replied: “You see all the bad stories on the news of what can happen to your kids if they talk to people they don’t know in chat rooms.”

Colette Bowe said: “We need to understand how we can address parental concerns and barriers to internet access so that families without the internet can be encouraged to start using it. By discussing the solutions and lessons learnt by those implementing programmes on the ground, the Panel wants to help shape policy recommendations to close the digital divide.”

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