A survey of 16 to 24 year olds has found that 75% of them feel they "couldn't live" without the internet.The report, published by online charity YouthNet, also found that four out of five young people used the web to look for advice. About one third added that they felt no need to talk to a person face to face about their problems because of the resources available online.
Despite high-profile examples of internet security breaches, such as the recent incident of phishing email scams, 76% of the survey group thought the internet was a safe place "as long as you know what you're doing".
"Probably the middle-aged are the most vulnerable," said Open University psychologist Graham Jones. "I think children, teenagers and people under their mid-20s have grown up with technology and they understand it deeply," he said. Mr Jones thinks it is the parents who need to become more sophisticated.
"One of the biggest problems for children is not that they are vulnerable but that their parents don't know what they're doing. It's important that parents have full understanding of the internet and its risks--younger people need parental direction," he said.
Its author, Professor Michael Hulme of Lancaster University, names this age group "digital natives" as they have grown up in an environment rich with computer and mobile technology. "For young people the internet is part of the fabric of their world and does not exist in isolation from the physical world," he said.
Youthnet runs websites offering advice, information and volunteering opportunities to young people. "The need for a safer, trusted [online] place has never been greater," said Fiona Dawes, Youthnet's chief executive.