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Children, risk and safety on the internet

Children, risk and safety on the internet: Research and policy challenges in comparative perspective

Sonia Livingstone
Leslie Haddon
Anke Görzig
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  • Book Info
    Children, risk and safety on the internet
    Book Description:

    As internet use is extending to younger children, there is an increasing need for research focus on the risks young users are experiencing, as well as the opportunities, and how they should cope. With expert contributions from diverse disciplines and a uniquely cross-national breadth, this timely book examines the prospect of enhanced opportunities for learning, creativity and communication set against the fear of cyberbullying, pornography and invaded privacy by both strangers and peers. Based on an impressive in-depth survey of 25,000 children carried out by the EU Kids Online network, it offers wholly new findings that extend previous research and counter both the optimistic and the pessimistic hype. It argues that, in the main, children are gaining the digital skills, coping strategies and social support they need to navigate this fast-changing terrain. But it also identifies the struggles they encounter, pinpointing those for whom harm can follow from risky online encounters. Each chapter presents new findings and analyses to inform both researchers and students in the social sciences and policy makers in government, industry or child welfare who are working to enhance children's digital experiences.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-884-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vii-xii)
  2. ONE Theoretical framework for children’s internet use
    (pp. 1-14)
    Sonia Livingstone and Leslie Haddon

    Childhood is rarely viewed neutrally. Although strongly shaped by the past, childhood in the early 21st century is very different from the one that adults today remember. Looking into the face of a child seems to enable a ‘gaze into the future’. It is no wonder, then, that ideas about childhood, including those expressed in academic contexts, are framed by hopes and anxieties, and by the tension between perceptions of continuity and change. Many features of social, political and economic life have altered, even transformed, childhood in recent decades, and each of these changes has been tracked by academic research,...

  3. TWO Methodological framework: the EU kids online project
    (pp. 15-32)
    Anke Görzig

    A range of methodological challenges accompanies survey research, from specification of the research questions and associated measurements, to minimising coverage, sampling and response errors. Cross-national surveys need a balance to be struck between standardisation and use of culture-specific or appropriate techniques. In addition, all projects have practical and financial restrictions. This chapter offers an overview of the data set and methodological approaches adopted for the EU Kids Online project.

    Questionnaire design includes content and response formats. The process of sampling and survey administration is described in this chapter, followed by fieldwork procedures and research ethics. The sampling, data entry and...

  4. THREE Cognitive interviewing and responses to EU kids online survey questions
    (pp. 33-44)
    Christine Ogan, Türkan Karakuş, Engin Kurşun, Kürşat Çağiltay and Duygu Kaşikçi

    Children have only been used as survey respondents since about 1990 (Bell, 2007); before this, it was considered that their responses to questions would not be reliable or valid. More recently, cognitive interviewing has been used to determine what kinds of questions and their phraseology, and with what levels of complexity produce the best possible data quality in surveys of children. Geiselman and Padilla (1988) studied 7- to 12-year-old children and found that cognitive interviews elicited 21 per cent more information than standard interviewing methods (cited in Jaśkiewicz-Obydzińska and Wach, 1995).

    While piloting is common in the methodological development of...

  5. FOUR Which children are fully online?
    (pp. 45-58)
    Ellen Helsper

    Research shows that adults who are disadvantaged in traditional, offline ways tend also to be disadvantaged when it comes to engagement with information and communications technology (ICT) (Warschauer,2004; van Dijk, 2005; Helsper, 2008). Some argue that this is not an issue for younger generations because they are growing up in technology-rich environments. Tapscott’s (1998) distinction between digital natives and digital immigrants reflects this type of reasoning. The belief that all children are fully online is strong, but runs counter to the evidence (Facer and Furlong, 2001; Bennett et al, 2008; Helsper and Eynon, 2010). Work on understanding the differences between...

  6. FIVE Varieties of access and use
    (pp. 59-72)
    Giovanna Mascheroni, Maria Francesca Murru and Anke Görzig

    The vast array of risks and opportunities that confront children in their daily media practices cannot be analysed in isolation from the broader context in which these practices emerge and become meaningful. Previous research (Livingstone and Helsper, 2007, 2009) indicates that the patterns and social contexts of general internet use are key factors shaping children’s online activities and their exposure to risks.

    In the EU Kids Online project, the institutional, social and cultural environment co-determining the quality of online experience has been analysed from the perspective of children’s everyday lives (Livingstone et al, 2011). Online experience is defined as a...

  7. SIX online opportunities
    (pp. 73-86)
    Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt and Pille Runnel

    This chapter analyses children’s take-up of online opportunities and their outcomes, based on an analysis of the range and types of children’s online activities. There are certain continuities between children’s online and offline worlds – searching for information, entertainment and gaming and social networking online are, to a large extent, extensions or modifications of practices that are located in everyday life, that is, they are not particularly on one side or the other of the ‘real’/‘virtual’ divide. But there is little question that the internet has not added to the breadth and depth of children’s everyday opportunities.

    The EU Kids Online...

  8. SEVEN Digital skills in the context of media literacy
    (pp. 87-98)
    Nathalie Sonck, Els Kuiper and Jos de Haan

    New names are continuously being invented for new internet generations. In 1998, Don Tapscott talked about the ‘Net Generation’, in 2001 Marc Prensky coined the term ‘digital natives’, and in 2006 Wim Veen and Ben Vrakking made reference to ‘homo zappiens’. All these authors are highlighting a discrepancy between older and younger generations, emphasising the seemingly natural capability of the latter to use and cope with an increasingly digitised world. These authors suggest that computers hold no secrets for the children of our era, who seem to master quite naturally the necessary digital skills. Although many parents and teachers share...

  9. EIGHT Between public and private: privacy in social networking sites
    (pp. 99-112)
    Reijo Kupiainen, Annikka Suoninen and Kaarina Nikunen

    Social networking has changed many people’s everyday lives, and in an extraordinarily short time. Children and young people, especially, are adopting social networking as a part of their social relationships, learning, consumption and creative practices. What defines children and young people as social beings is happening more and more often in social networking sites (SNS), which are online spaces where people can communicate, play, watch video clips, look at photographs and share their feelings and thoughts with others. They are manifestations of ‘public culture’, the term that Appadurai and Breckenbridge (1995) suggest as an alternative to ‘popular culture’ or ‘mass...

  10. NINE Experimenting with the self online: a risky opportunity
    (pp. 113-126)
    Lucyna Kirwil and Yiannis Laouris

    Developmental theories assume that at the beginning stages of adolescence, young people’s developmental tasks and the instability of their ‘selves’ motivate them to experiment with their identities and self-presentation. There is growing evidence that adolescents use the internet to experiment in this way, especially on social networking sites (SNS) (Calvert et al, 2003; Valkenburg et al, 2005; Williams and Merten, 2008). This experimentation should gradually decrease as children get older and fulfil their developmental tasks, that is, younger children should experiment more than older ones (Valkenburg et al, 2005; Livingstone, 2008) – the closer to the goal, that is, being adult,...

  11. TEN Young Europeans’ online environments: a typology of user practices
    (pp. 127-140)
    Uwe Hasebrink

    The internet is sometimes discussed as something external, with a given set of characteristics that have positive or negative effects on children. However, ‘the internet’ cannot be a meaningful indicator of young people’s everyday experiences. Online services are so heterogeneous that we can expect substantial inter-individual differences in how young people use the internet and the kinds of online environments they experience.

    The EU Kids Online network tried to avoid the simple construction of ‘the’ internet in conceptualising opportunities and risks resulting from a transactional process between the set of available online services and their young potential users, within a...

  12. ELEVEN Bullying
    (pp. 141-150)
    Claudia Lampert and Verónica Donoso

    Although the term ‘cyberbullying’ is being used more frequently in academic research, there is no standard definition of this phenomenon. Most descriptions consider that cyberbullying is ‘a new form of aggression … that occurs through modern technological devices, and specifically mobile phones or the internet’ (Slonje and Smith, 2008, p 147), but also displays some characteristics typical of traditional bullying (Slonje and Smith, 2008), for example, aggressive and intentional actions undertaken by a group or an individual (repeatedly over time) against a victim (Whitney and Smith, 1993; Olweus, 1999). However, some aspects of traditional bullying (for example, repetition or imbalance...

  13. TWELVE ‘Sexting’: the exchange of sexual messages online among european youth
    (pp. 151-164)
    Sonia Livingstone and Anke Görzig

    The invention of a new term – for example, the portmanteau integration of sex and texting into the concept ‘sexting’ – may or may not identify a new phenomenon. Despite the public attention attracted by media announcements, such as those that open this chapter, it is unclear whether sexting is new and problematic or merely the latest moral panic related to youth and technology (Critcher, 2008). Although sexting is not unlike earlier telephonic, written or face-to-face exchanges (Chalfen, 2009), these quick-fire exchanges that occur largely ‘under the radar’ have been greatly enabled, perhaps transformed, by the advent of convenient, affordable, accessible and...

  14. THIRTEEN Pornography
    (pp. 165-176)
    Antonis Rovolis and Liza Tsaliki

    We live in an era of contested conceptualisations of childhood. On the one hand, the commercial imperative of contemporary capitalism has expanded into marketing for and to children. On the other hand, the predominant view of childhood as a natural, universal and biologically inherent period of human development, imagined as an age of innocence where the child is vulnerable to the threat of deviant sexuality, means that we experience a nervous dialectic in which children are held to be ‘naturally’ innocent yet, at the same time, implicated in dangerous sexuality. This means that rather than seeing them as humans going...

  15. FOURTEEN Meeting new contacts online
    (pp. 177-190)
    Monica Barbovschi, Valentina Marinescu, Anca Velicu and Eva Laszlo

    This chapter investigates children’s practices related to meeting face-to-face (offline), contacts previously met on the internet. ‘Stranger danger’ has been part of the collective imaginaries of citizens, the media, concerned parents and caregivers, teachers and youth workers, non-governmental organisations and regulators. It has frequently been exaggerated by the media based on a relatively few cautionary tales that have sparked disproportionate concerns and reactions. Without minimising the risks of these practices, this chapter, through an in-depth, contextual, exploratory approach, tries to put into perspective the phenomenon of meeting face-to-face with contacts made online. The generic categories of online ‘stranger’ and, especially,...

  16. FIFTEEN excessive internet use among european children
    (pp. 191-204)
    David Šmahel and Lukáš Blinka

    The internet has become an integral part of adolescents’ lives. Children and young people are engaging in a broad range of activities online, chatting with friends, playing online games, watching videos, listening to music, doing schoolwork, browsing for information, etc (Subrahmanyam and Smahel, 2010). The rapid increase in fast and cheap internet connections since the end of the 1990s has helped to increase the amount of time individuals spend online. Adolescents growing up in the contemporary digital era are among the most prominent internet users and more frequent users than among the older age categories (Lupac and Sladek, 2008). Their...

  17. SIXTEEN Coping and resilience: children’s responses to online risks
    (pp. 205-218)
    Sofie Vandoninck, Leen d’Haenens and Katia Segers

    There is an impressive body of behavioural science research, beginning in the 1950s, which focuses primarily on ‘[w]hat makes a difference in the lives of children threatened by adversity or burdened by risk’ (Masten and Powell, 2003, p 4). Exposure to risks is part of everyday life and potentially contributes to increased ability to cope with threats; however, children’s resilience to risks varies, and some cope with adversity better than others (Smith and Carlson, 1997). Resilience, defined as ‘positive patterns of adaptation in the context of risk or adversity’, is considered one of the most complex and provocative aspects of...

  18. SEVENTEEN Agents of mediation and sources of safety awareness: a comparative overview
    (pp. 219-230)
    Dominique Pasquier, José Alberto Simões and Elodie Kredens

    The question of mediation raises many issues since it entails a normative view about children’s socialisation. How do media enter children’s lives and who has responsibility for regulating their potential risks or benefits? Parents, teachers, policy makers and the media – all seem to have an opinion. However, the role of parents is prominent since most media use occurs within the home. Structural changes in family life (James et al, 1998; Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 2002) may explain certain transformations within family dynamics (from less to more ‘democratic’ styles of parenting) and account for changes in parental styles of mediating online activities...

  19. EIGHTEEN the effectiveness of parental mediation
    (pp. 231-244)
    Maialen Garmendia, Carmelo Garitaonandia, Gemma Martínez and Miguel Ángel Casado

    A child’s relationship with the internet is shaped by multiple factors. Chapter 17 showed that individual characteristics (demographic, psychological), national context (socioeconomic stratification, legal framework, technological infrastructure, education system, cultural values) and social mediation influence the way that children use the internet and, thus, the risks and opportunities they encounter. The actions of parents, siblings and peers and teachers are part of that social mediation (see Livingstone et al, 2011).

    Since parents are responsible for their children’s education, they play a vital role in limiting the risks and harm to which children may be exposed. In the specific case of...

  20. NINETEEN effectiveness of teachers’ and peers’ mediation in supporting opportunities and reducing risks online
    (pp. 245-256)
    Veronika Kalmus, Cecilia von Feilitzen and Andra Siibak

    A distinctive feature of the EU Kids Online survey is that it asked children about mediation of internet use practised by parents, teachers and peers (Livingstone et al, 2011). This chapter starts from the assumption that these three agents, by virtue of their different social relationships with children, play distinct roles in influencing children’s online experiences, both positively and negatively. The chapter evaluates the effectiveness of mediation by teachers and peers in supporting online opportunities and in reducing risks and harm.

    Parents often expect teachers to act as coach or facilitator in relation to their children’s internet use, in other...

  21. TWENTY Understanding digital inequality: the interplay between parental socialisation and children’s development
    (pp. 257-272)
    Ingrid Paus-Hasebrink, Cristina Ponte, Andrea Dürager and Joke Bauwens

    Across Europe, economic restructuring and immigration from disadvantaged countries show that relations related to inequality are dynamic and persistent. Given the diversity of European countries, in social, cultural and economic terms, the gaps between rich and poor take various forms and occur to differing degrees. However, in all countries social inequalities are a major concern in social politics. Political economists point to the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that continue to affect the communicative rights and competencies of considerable numbers of citizens (Murdock and Golding, 2004). Hence, the increasing emergence of a society that is mediated, experienced and encountered more...

  22. TWENTY-ONE Similarities and differences across Europe
    (pp. 273-284)
    Bojana Lobe and Kjartan Ólafsson

    Funding bodies and policy makers have increasingly called for comparative research. The result is that many researchers have initiated or participated in projects aimed at achieving some kind of multinational comparison (Livingstone, 2003). The EU Kids Online project is an example of such a study. In a review of about 400 studies of children and the internet, Hasebrink et al (2009) concluded that although it was possible to conduct a systematic and structured analysis of the existing research, it was both demanding in terms of research efforts and the claims made should be ‘treated as indicative rather than conclusive’ (see...

  23. TWENTY-TWO Mobile access: different users, different risks, different consequences?
    (pp. 285-296)
    Gitte Stald and Kjartan Ólafsson

    Online communication and information is increasingly accessible to young people, from several other platforms than traditional personal computers. While mobile phones may be primary sources of online access to some and supplementing access to others, all mobile platforms offer the benefits of being personal, portable and always on and to hand. The increased online access from mobile phones raises two questions: does more access to the internet from mobile phones expose children to more risk and harm, and are there different risks and harm if children use mobile access rather than traditional personal computers? This chapter explores and analyses potential...

  24. TWENTY-THREE Explaining vulnerability to risk and harm
    (pp. 297-308)
    Alfredas Laurinavičius, Rita Žukauskienė and Laura Ustinavičiūtė

    Although the internet brings a wide range of opportunities for online communication, not all of it is positive and it may leave children vulnerable to numerous online hazards. Previous research, as other chapters show, points to encounters with material considered risky and potentially harmful being related to a range of sociodemographic and psychological variables. For example, age correlates with more intensive internet use and with more risky behaviour, and age can also moderate the relationship between internet use and psychological well-being (Shapira et al, 2000). Gender differences in relation to risk are supposed to be strong but unpredictable – in the...

  25. TWENTY-FOUR Relating online practices, negative experiences and coping strategies
    (pp. 309-322)
    Bence Ságvári and Anna Galácz

    The initial findings of the EU Kids Online survey (as presented in the preceding chapters in this book) provide detailed information on the types and nature of risks that children face when using the internet. In this chapter we focus on the presence of multiple risks in children’s lives, using a complex approach that also takes account of the complex characteristics of the different coping strategies employed to obviate potential harm. We investigate the following questions:

    What are the typical risk patterns from the child’s perspective? What kinds of risks are related?

    What are the typical risk and harm factors?...

  26. TWENTY-FIVE Towards a general model of determinants of risk and safety
    (pp. 323-338)
    Sonia Livingstone, Uwe Hasebrink and Anke Görzig

    Rapid adoption of the internet and other online technologies is presenting policy makers, governments and industry with a significant task of ensuring that online opportunities are maximised and the risks associated with internet use are minimised and managed. Online opportunities are the focus of considerable public and private sector activity, and diverse ambitious efforts are underway in many countries to promote digital learning technologies in schools, e-governance initiatives, digital participation and digital literacy. The risks associated with the technologies are receiving similar attention through national and international initiatives that address child protection, cybersecurity and privacy, and through discussions explaining the...

  27. TWENTY-SIX Policy implications and recommendations: now what?
    (pp. 339-354)
    Brian O’Neill and Elisabeth Staksrud

    In recent years, the policy agenda concerned with children’s use of the internet has assumed an increasingly prominent role, due to sustained efforts on the part of civil society and of various government agencies to raise awareness about the topic. Policy considerations encompass both online opportunities (focused on access to education, communication, information and participation) and the risks of harm posed to children by internet use. In relation to risks and safety, the main focus of this book, the agenda remains a highly contested one. This is partly because evidence about children’s experience of internet technologies has to date been...

  28. Appendix: Key variables used in EU Kids Online Analyses
    (pp. 355-368)