UNICEF report on the RuNet Generation

Here’s a useful resource: a UNICEF study of internet use amongst young Russians. The authors present a broad review of available statistics and studies surrounding useage statistics, popular sites, technologies, access and identified risks. I’m pleased to note that they prioritise local expertise, particularly as it’s been my experience that by the time Russian sources are published in English they’re already months and years out of date.

Their findings in brief:

  • The number of Internet users grew from two million in 2000 to 46.5 million by the end of 2010
  • The Russian digital landscape is dominated by Russian-bred sites like Yandex, VKontakte and mail.ru
  • Meeting strangers is the most widespread risk encountered by Russian adolescents and young people. Forty per cent of Russians aged 9-16 reported meeting someone from the online world in real life
  • Significant risks discovered over the course of the study also include adult content, malicious software and cyberbullying

Unfortunately there’s not much about online gaming, just a line pointing out the “dearth of research concerning the prevalence and frequency of online gaming among Russian adolescents and young people” and some sparse statistics from this report which frankly I would like to see verified elsewhere:

  •  75 per cent of Internet users under 18 years of age who play online games play massively multi-player online games (MMOG).
  • On average, they play these games 6 days per week, 7 hours per day.
  • In addition, 25 per cent of this sample play games on social networking sites.
  • On average, games on social networking sites are played 5 days per week, 4 hours per day.

Sections on available technology, the digital divide, Twitter, blogging and e-commerce are somewhat more comprehensive, although that’s only to be expected. I’ve found that there’s a lot of interest in themes of economic development and political resistance when it comes to RuNet so resources abound.

Their final conclusion – that young people need to be educated about the risks of internet use – is a little anaemic. Given the apparent prevalence of internet use by young Russians, I would be very surprised if the conclusions drawn by the UNICEF team aren’t already well understood by the internet users themselves; a perfect example of shutting the stable door behind the horse, I’m guessing. Nevertheless, it’s a solid report and a good introduction to the Russian internet sphere. It’s available in full here.