LONDON: Children and young adults in the UK are largely unconcerned about the legal implications of online piracy and file sharing and are growing up with an expectation that internet content should be free, new research has shown.

For The Future of Digital Consumption 2014, which examines consumer attitudes towards and usage trends surrounding digital consumption, YouGov SixthSense commissioned a survey among YouGov's online panel, drawing on a sample of 1,907 UK adults aged 16+ and 614 children aged 8-15.

This found that 49% of children aged 8 to 15 agreed or strongly agreed that they should be able to download or access content for free from the internet. This age group also showed an above-average propensity to agree that using file-sharing sites was easy (6%) and a normal thing to do (7%).

A similar proportion of 16-to-24 year olds also thought online content should be free and the report noted that ad-supported services, such as Spotify, YouTube and Blinkbox, tended to be popular with this group.

Cost is the major factor in the decision to use file sharing sites. Over half (51%) of adults and 44% of children who file share do so to save money. The fact that it is a quick, convenient and easy way to access content was also important for 41% of adults and 38% of children.

Few regarded this as wrong – just 7% saw file sharing as a form of stealing. A far higher proportion – 60% of 16-24 year olds – argued that those companies and websites which allowed illegal content should be punished rather than those who had accessed the content.

But one fifth of children said they would be happy to pay for content if it got them something new or exclusive, while 13% would pay if there was a specific up-and-coming artist they want to support.

"Children in this generation have grown up with digital material and are used to having access to what they want, when they want it and for some of the time not paying for it," said James McCoy, YouGov Research Director.

"The challenge for the industry is to find ways to engage with this group to change their mind-set about accessing content and to educate them in a relevant and non-condescending way about the issues surrounding this matter."

\Data sourced from YouGov; additional content by Warc staff