More than one in eight children in Europe have been bothered or upset by online content, finds a report published on the 21st October. The EU Kids Online project based at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) conducted interviews in 25 European countries for the report, entitled Risks and safety on the internet and was based on interviews with 23,000 young people aged 9-19 across Europe. However, it also found most children had no upsetting experiences and the increasing numbers of children online also brings more opportunities.
Professor Sonia Livingstone, one of the report’s authors and professor of media and communication at LSE, said: âThis study shows children are going online younger and more often than ever before. The internet is now central to children’s lives across Europe and they use it for a range of things which are often beneficial including schoolwork, playing games, watching video and instant messaging. So while it is worrying that some children have been upset by things they’ve encountered online, it’s important to balance this against the benefits and to understand that risk doesn’t always lead to harm. For instance, bullying online is the behaviour most likely to upset children but it is also the least common risk among all those we looked at. The youngest children are those who find it hardest to cope with upsetting experiences and this is the area where governments should promote actions to protect and educate.‘
Key findings from the Report includes:
- The most common risks reported by children online are communicating with new people not met face-to-face and seeing potentially harmful user-generated content. It is much rarer for children to meet a new online contact offline or be bullied online.
- 12% of European 9-16 year olds say that they have been bothered or upset by something on the internet. This includes 9% of 9-10 year olds.
- 1 in 12 children have met an online contact offline; but this risk rarely has a harmful experience (1% said they had been bothered by an offline meeting).
- Half of all children said they find it easier to be themselves online than in real life
- Many 11-12 year olds lack basic safety skills such as knowing how to set privacy settings or block unwanted contacts.
- Teenage boys are more exposed to sexual images while girls are slightly more likely to receive hurtful messages – however, girls are more likely to be upset by online risks than boys.
- 15% of 11-16 year olds have received peer to peer “sexual messages or images and 3% say they have sent or posted such messages online.
- 19% of European 9-16 year olds have been bullied, online or offline, and 12% have bullied someone else, in the past year. Examining online bullying only, 5% have been sent bullying messages while 3% have sent such messages.
- One in eight 9-16 year olds have seen user-generated content promoting hate or anorexia
- Overall 57% (65% in the UK) of 9-16 year olds across Europe report having their own social networking profile. One quarter (24%) of the 9-10 year olds report having their own profile, compared with half (48%) of 11-12 year olds, 72% of 13-14 year olds and 81% of 15-16 year olds.
- In the UK 13% report to have a public Social Networking account, 27% have an incorrect age, and 7% share their phone number or home address.
- Parents were often not aware of the risks to which their children had been exposed as 41% of parents whose child has seen sexual images online say that their child has not seen this; 56% of parents whose child has received nasty or hurtful messages online say that their child has not; 52% of parents whose child has received sexual messages say that their child has not; 61% of parents whose child has met offline with an online contact say that their child has not.
- 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
- 48% of children in the UK who use the internet have access in their own bedroom
- Almost one in three children (31%) has access to the internet via a mobile phone or other handheld device. In the UK 21% access the internet via a handheld device and 29% via a mobile phone.
- 72% of children aged 9-19 in the UK use the internet everyday or almost everyday.
An expanded version, including policy recommendations and new findings on parental mediation, is due in November.
To read the report and supporting videos and documents visit www.eukidsonline.net