Illegal downloading of digital copyright works by those aged 8 to 18 has dropped by 24 percent in the past three years, according to a survey released by the BSA (Business Software Alliance). Overall, 36 percent of those surveyed admitted to downloading without paying.

When asked what dissuades them from downloading copyrighted games, movies, music or software, the respondents said parental influence is a significant factor. It’s moderately up from the first time this poll was conducted in 2004, from 40 percent to 48 percent. That's fourth overall - the top three reasons were fear of having computers infected by viruses (62 percent), fear of incurring legal trouble (52 percent) and accidentally downloading spyware (51 percent).

The study indicates there may be a wide disparity between the online behaviour of children who have parental supervision and children who don't. The report suggests that 52 percent of those without parental rules have downloaded software, compared with 19 percent that have such rules, and that 47 percent without parental rules download music software without paying, versus 16 percent with rules.

Diane Smiraldo, the BSA's vice-president of public affairs, said children are still taking too many risks online, but that this survey shows that parents represent a growing and effective influence on the online behaviour of young people.

"Imposing rules and ensuring your children abide by them may be an old-fashioned concept for cyberspace, but it works," Smiraldo said.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the BSA in March, with 1,196 respondents aged 8 to 18.