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Women rule the internet roost

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Suspension of internet privileges has become the new way to discipline a unruly children, AOL UK has found, following a six month anthropological study of five British families.

The research, which was backed with a quantitative poll of more than 4,000 net subscribers, reveals how the PC is affecting family life in the UK.

AOL says that mums in particular are emerging as the new guardians of the internet, with almost half of those surveyed moving the PC into the family room, and a third spending time online with their children. Four fifths said they used the PC as a substitute for the phone, to help them keep in touch with family and friends.

Two thirds of women are also using the net to research and diagnose family illnesses. AOL cites a case of one man who went to hospital with notes and observations compiled by his wife, that suggested he was suffering from a particular form of heart arrhythmia. The researchers do not say whether the at-home diagnosis was correct.

Slightly more worryingly, a fifth of women report getting up in the middle of the night to check things online, and half report logging on before breakfast. Checking auction sites and keeping up with gossip are to blame for this slightly obsessive behaviour.

John Craig, author of the Demos report, argues that ordinary people rather than geeks are now shaping the internet, and that computers are becomming less important than the connections they enable. ®

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