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Ever IM’ed a friend who was sitting in the same room? Survey reveals what Australians consider acceptable behaviour online.

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A clear majority of Australians today value their laptops more than their TVs, according to a survey commissioned by Intel.

With all the talk of the internet becoming a fourth utility in households, that finding may not surprise. But just how internet dependent are we? According to the same survey, a lot of us are OK chatting online or Facebooking with someone within earshot.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they would rather give up a TV set for a week than a laptop. Among 16-29 year olds with laptops, the figure was higher, with 79 per cent saying they would rather abstain from watching TV for a week.

The Intel survey also recorded the most practical uses Australians have for their PCs: the top three cited were ‘searching for information’, ‘keeping in touch with family and friends’ and ‘on-line banking and bill payments’.

And when asked what services they wished they could access online, sixty seven per cent of respondents were in favour of online voting. Other popular answers included taking an eye test (25%), consulting a doctor (28%) and getting a passport (41%).

According to Kate Burleigh, national marketing manager for Intel Australia, the results demonstrate a shift in our computing habits and the relationship we have with our technology.

“Not so long ago a laptop was considered a luxury purchase. Now notebooks account for four out of five home computers sold. With this shift to mobile, we’re moving from one computer per household to one per person and the Personal Computer is becoming even more personal,” Ms Burleigh said.

Acceptable online behaviour

The survey, by Galaxy Research, was completed in October and included 417 respondents across Australia aged between 16 and 59 years.

Forty-nine per cent of those surveyed use a notebook computer rather than a desktop at home. Younger computer users were almost twice as likely to use a notebook than older respondents (60 per cent of respondents aged 16-29 versus 33 per cent among those 45-59 years).

With voting compulsory in Australia and election memories not quite distant, the enthusiasm for the idea of online voting makes sense.

But then there was the other side of the survey: asking participants what constitutes acceptable use of online technology in various social contexts.

Younger respondents were more accepting of using email, IM or social media to communicate with someone in the same room (44% among 16-29 year olds vs 22% of 45-59 year olds), but still less than half believe it is socially acceptable.

Just in time for Christmas, 66 per cent of respondents said it is okay to send online e-cards for the holidays… in certain cases. The majority said e-cards were acceptable for colleagues or business contacts but fewer thought them suitable for a spouse or family member.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent of respondents felt it was acceptable to announce a wedding online. Yet as far as surprises go, nine per cent of those surveyed actually approved of online marriage proposals.

For the majority of us, some things still are best done face-to-face.

Image by Bekathwia [Becky Stern]

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