Study shows drop in illegal downloads among youth

A new survey released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) shows that illegal downloading of digital copyright works by young people aged 8 to 18 has dropped by 24 percent in the last three years. Overall, 36 percent of those surveyed admitted to downloading without paying.

When asked what dissuades them from downloading copyrighted games, movies, music or software, the youth said that parental oversight is a significant motivator and key influencing behavior. It's moderately up from the first time this poll was done in 2004, from 40 percent to 48 percent. That's fourth, overall, though - the top three reasons included fear of having their computers infected by viruses (62 percent), fear of incurring legal trouble (52 percent) or accidentally downloading spyware (51 percent).

The study indicates there may be a wide difference between how kids who have parental oversight with online activities act online versus those that don't. The report suggests that 52 percent of those without parental rules have downloaded software, compared to 19 percent that have such rules, and that 47 percent without parental rules download music software without paying, versus 16 percent with rules.

Diane Smiraldo, the BSA's vice president of public affairs, said that kids are still taking too many risks online, but that this survey shows that parents represent a growing and effective influence on the online behavior of young people.

"Imposing rules and ensuring your children abide by them may be an old-fashioned concept for cyberspace, but it works," said Smiraldo.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of BSA in March, with 1,196 youths ages 8 to 18.

Parents and teachers interested in getting more information about how to emphasize legal and ethical computer behavior are encouraged to visit the BSA's Web site.

Peter Cohen - MacCentral (Macworld)

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