Headlines: October 13th, 2010

There is a common assumption that young people are ‘digital natives’ but research from Catch22, a charity that helps young people, found that 1 in 5 has no access to the Internet.

The report ‘Young people and the digital divide’ describes how many young people do have access to a vast amount of information at the click of a mouse, but many do not. Most of those supported by Catch22 are among the most socially disadvantaged and they are victims of the ‘digital divide’ and at risk of becoming invisible to policy makers.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has identified social and financial benefits of going online for vulnerable groups which include enhanced self sufficiency, better access to public services and improved education, attainment and life/work chances.

Those who cannot access the internet will miss out on opportunities in areas of public life like financial inclusion, where some banking services are only available online and goods and services can only be purchased online. Similarly with health information, where one-stop health services, drug and alcohol support and general advice on well-being is offered via the internet.

Joyce Moseley, chief executive of the charity said: “It’s clear that young people who cannot get online will face significant disadvantage unless Government services continue to develop the opportunities and skills that young people need in order to fully engage with the online community.”

The charity has called on Government to provide secure and confidential areas in public places where young people might access the internet, like libraries and local community centres, as a matter of urgency. Young people who may need to enter personal details online need to do so confidently and securely. It also wants young people to be provided with alternative channels of accessing services and getting information and advice.