Are you happy with your life? The question is simple but important since your state of mind can have a big influence over your online behaviour, according to new research. A year-long study conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and commissioned by the Home Affairs Bureau says you are more likely to be exposed to the perils of the Internet when you are dissatisfied with life. Dangers include contacting strangers online, using foul language, browsing pornographic Web sites and not respecting intellectual property rights. Between October 2000 and November last year, more than 1,000 families with young people between nine and 24 years old were randomly selected and interviewed. Some of the findings made disturbing reading. For example, children are more likely to behave if their parents understand information technology (IT). But 65 per cent of parents said they did not know how to use a computer. Over 70 per cent of parents said they did not restrict their children's IT activity because of all the positive views about IT, but they knew little about what their children did online. 'Using IT more is not necessarily better. It may present more danger,' warned Daniel Shek Tan-lei, professor of the Department of Social Work at HKU and representative of the Commission on Youth. The HKU team called for more IT information and a discussion of ethical issues for parents so that they could provide effective guidance. Young people must be sceptical about information found on the Internet, said Professor Shek. 'You must learn to tell the good from the bad,' he said. 'And if you are feeling lonely, try talk to your parents or go to community centres to make new friends. You have to tackle the problem at its roots.'