Isn’t It Time For Online Health Warnings?

Forget food addiction and the consumption of burgers and full fat coke. Americans are consuming an average of almost 12 hours of information – or media – per person per day, outside of work. With the amount of digital traffic this produces, isn’t it time for a health warning to alert people to the dangers of not staying safe online.

Digital footprint

The extraordinary results come from an academic study by the University of California, which measured the hours, words and bytes consumed by an average person in a day in 2008. The survey shows just how important and integral the internet has become to most people. For example, on an average day, a person could consume 100,500 words, by email, social networks, searching websites or through other digital sources. This all adds up to a substantial digital footprint by the individual and rich pickings for the intrepid fraudster.

In a heartbeat

“Internet addiction is not a figment of our imagination,” says Dr. Christian Montag from the Department for Differential and Biological Psychology at the University of Bonn. “Researchers and therapists are increasingly closing in on it.” From the fraudster’s viewpoint this online activity, if not protected, provides a diverse and plentiful marketplace. For example, web developers Go-Golf found that in 60 seconds online activity included:

  • 168 million emails sent
  • 694,445 Google searches
  • 695,000 Facebook status updates
  • 370,000 Skype calls made
  • 98,000 tweets on Twitter
  • 600+ videos posted on YouTube

Health warning

It’s a scary thought that majority of people in the survey will not realise or acknowledge the risk their online behaviour could have on them. Effective password management, regularly reviewing personal settings and acknowledging updated privacy policies are just a few ways people can protect themselves in their online activities. Also being mindful about where and with whom you share information is useful strategy. Simple defences, but the best way to protect the personal information we decide to make public.

All you can eat

Like an all-day buffet, the average person has access to information any time they want, meaning most are experiencing ‘information overload’. The University of California said: “Considering that on average we work for almost three hours a day and sleep for seven, this means that three-quarters of our waking time in the home is spent receiving information, most of it electronic.”


The survey includes the use of television too. With an increase in the number of people using Twitter while watching TV programmes, driven by marketing campaigners, this is bound to have an effect on the figures in future. The question is with all this distraction does the average user maintain tightened security levels? Do they realise they are at risk while sitting in their armchair?

Eat cake

The survey highlights how one of the largest populations, representative of many countries across the World, now relies upon being connected and is addicted to using the internet. However, the need to protect information can be overlooked by many as they focus on the benefits and convenience. There are many ways in which a fraudster will target the individual but with greater vigilance and the right online behaviour, we can all enjoy our ‘digital cake and eat it’.

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Denise Beardon creates and delivers security awareness culture change programmes for The Security Company’s major blue-chip clients. The programmes are designed to bring measurable behavioural change and include stakeholder management, strategic communications, the development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and a framework for measurement. Denise has more than ten years’ experience in corporate communications. Prior to working for The Security Company, Denise was Internal Communications Manager for Cambridgeshire Constabulary and was responsible for the development and implementation of strategic communications for the most significant change programme to be undertaken by the force.