Safer Internet Day: Europe's Children Need More Tips for Safe Surfing
The majority of European children and young people between the ages of 9 and 16 use their smartphone "every day" or "almost all the time." This means that both the proportion of smartphone users and the length of time they use the Internet have increased significantly compared to 2010. In some countries, the time that adolescents spend online every day has even almost doubled.
Nevertheless, many children still receive little support and advice on safe online use - either from parents, teachers or friends. Parents and friends are the main people to contact if they have a negative online experience, while teachers or professionals are rarely asked for advice. These are the findings of the international comparative EU Kids Online study published by the research network on the occasion of Safer Internet Day.
The study "EU Kids Online 2020: Survey Results From 19 Countries" examines the online opportunities, risks and experiences of children aged 9-16 years in Europe and repeated a survey from 2010 so that the results can be compared over ten years. Teams from the EU Kids Online network in the individual countries interviewed a total of 25,101 children between autumn 2017 and summer 2019. Data from a German representative survey was also included in the comparison.
Risk Esperience Is Not Always Negative
The risks that children and young people encounter when using the Internet include cyberbullying, the reception of problematic user-generated content, data abuse, excessive Internet use, sexting and meeting online acquaintances. The findings make it clear that not all risky media phenomena necessarily lead to negative experiences. An example of this is meeting with online contacts. Only between 5 percent, (France) and 25 percent (Serbia) of children and young people have met someone they met on the Internet in the past year. For the majority of these children (between 52% in Slovakia and 86% in Romania) the meeting was a positive experience. Only in exceptional cases, however, did the meeting prove to be a stressful experience: Less than 5% of the children who had arranged to meet an online acquaintance found such a meeting unpleasant.
Lack of Support from Teachers or Professionals
Seven (Slovakia) to 45 percent (Malta) of European children and young people say they have experienced something online in the last year that was bad or disturbing for them. Most of them said that such things happened only sporadically, i.e. a few times a year. Most of them then confided in their parents or friends. Teachers or trained professionals were rarely asked for advice. In addition, up to 25% of children said that they had never or almost never received advice from parents, teachers or friends on safe online use.
German Children Seem to Deal with Online Risks Comparatively Well
"Although most children and adolescents in Germany use the Internet relatively frequently, the spectrum of online activities is comparatively narrow - similar to Italian children. When they encounter online risks, they seem to be able to deal with them well, at least most of them do not perceive these experiences as stressful. The findings indicate that children from different cultural contexts differ in their understanding and perception of risk," says Prof. Dr. Uwe Hasebrink, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut and coordinator of the EU Kids Online Research Network, summarising the findings.
The confrontation with a risk does not necessarily have to have negative consequences. Nevertheless, it is important to keep an eye especially on those who have negative experiences and who lack appropriate media and coping skills. "In addition to reliable contact persons, children need various media skills and coping strategies that they can use flexibly and that help them to use the potential of the Internet and to meet the challenges of the Internet with confidence," says Hasebrink.
The international comparative report "EU Kids Online 2020: Survey Results from 19 Countries" gives an overview of the online experiences of European children and young people and highlights differences between countries. The study repeats a survey already carried out by the EU Kids Online network in 2010 and thus allows a comparison of how the situation has changed over the last ten years.
The complete report in English is available at www.eukidsonline.net.
Information about the Project
EU Kids Online is a European research network that now includes more than 30 countries. The aim of the network is to provide an international comparative database on the online use of children and young people. Since its foundation, EU Kids Online has established itself as an important source of high-quality, independent and comprehensive research on children's and young people's online use in Europe. The interdisciplinary network cooperates closely with various actors from politics, media, industry, education and practice at national, European and international level. The results and reports of the network are mentioned in political declarations and are repeatedly used as a basis for the conception of initiatives for more safety on the Internet.
The network has been coordinated by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) since 2014.
The network offers information via two websites: one in German, which focuses primarily on the German results (www.eukidsonline.de), and one in English, with information on the overall project and the international comparative studies at www.eukidsonline.net.
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