Daniel McKeown on report that says 1 in 8 kids are upset by online experiences
More than one in eight children have been bothered or upset by online content finds a report based on EU Kids Online interviews with 23,000 young people across Europe.
According to the report, Risks and safety on the internet: the perspective of European Children, 12 per cent of children said they had been bothered or upset by experiences online – including encountering pornography, sexual or bullying messages and potentially harmful user-generated-content, such as pro-anorexia, hate or self-harm sites.
Another finding was that parents were often unaware of problems. For example, where a child had been bullied online, more than half of parents did not realise this had happened.
'Digital literacy and online safety skills can only be learned through time online'
However researchers stressed that the majority of children had no upsetting experiences on the internet and pointed out that digital literacy and online safety skills can only be learned through spending time online.
Encouragingly, the report, conducted by the EU Kids Online project, based at the LSE (London School of Economics), indicated that online bullying was relatively uncommon – certainly when compared the offline problem.
Professor Sonia Livingstone highlighted the difference in how teenagers interact online and in the 'real world'. “Face to face interaction when you're a teenager has its own risks: there are lots of opportunities for embarrassment, for losing face, for getting things wrong and mismanaging,” she explained.
Professor Livingstone noted that the time lag inherent in internet communications takes this pressure off teenagers, as it gives them time to think and, if necessary, try to recover a situation which is going wrong.
'Half said that they feel more able to be themselves online than offline'
“I think it is striking that half of those in the survey said that they feel more able to be themselves online than offline,” she said.
The report, published in October, also found that children are going online at ever-younger ages – an average of seven in Sweden and eight in several other Northern European countries, including the UK.
Interviewers, who spoke to children aged from 9 to 16, found that the youngest found it hardest to cope with disturbing material online. The study recommends targeting spending and advice at younger age groups to reduce risk and enhance the opportunities of the internet.