Earlier this week, Finland became the first country to make broadband access a legal right, following in the footsteps of France, which declared internet access a legal right earlier this year. Internet access has definitely become a fundamental human need in some cases. Seventy-five percent of UK teens say they can’t live without it, according to a House of Commons report entitled Life Support: Young people's needs in a digital age, commissioned by online charity YouthNet and released yesterday. The report’s most interesting finding – and one that corresponds nicely with the Virgin study we published a few days ago – is that 45 percent of teens are the most happy when online. To turn that figure around, that’s almost half of people aged 16 to 24 who are less happy in the physical world than they are on the internet, which is kind of frightening.

"For young people, the internet is part of the fabric of their world and does not exist in isolation from the physical world, rather it operates as a fully integrated element,” said the report’s author, Dr. Michael Hulme of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Lancaster University.

One of the reasons that youth are happier online is the lack or restraints and moral pressures they find in the physical world. They prefer to find support for issues such as drugs and sex online, for example, as opposed to seeking information about such issues offline.

“Far more than just a way to keep in touch – [the internet], and its online population, have become a confidant for young people facing difficult, stressful or confusing times,” said Dr. Tanya Byron, a government advisor on children and technology.

By Mark Alvarez