- Parents of young children believe ‘risks of the internet outweigh the benefits’
- Worldwide research into the benefits and risk of Internet use by young people
- The Internet and Children: The Risks
Parents of young children believe ‘risks of the internet outweigh the benefits’
The majority of parents of young children (under eight) surveyed in a Webwise parenting report in relation to internet use do not believe the benefits of the internet for their children outweigh the risks.
While almost three quarters of parents of children under eight agreed that the internet was important for their children, and were confident they could monitor their child’s online activity, only around a third (34 per cent) were confident they could protect their child when they were online.
Among the parents of older children (9 to 17 years of age), around 40 per cent did not believe the benefits outweighed the risks, with 27 per cent disagreeing, and 33 per cent undecided.
Here too around three quarters agreed the internet was important for their child’s education. Among the parents of older children (13 to 17 year olds), more than half agreed it was easy for their child to use the internet without them knowing, and 41 per cent were not confident they could protect their children when they are online. While 27 per cent felt they could protect their children while online, 32 per cent were undecided.
These were some of the findings of a Webwise survey released for Internet Safety Day 2017 earlier this week. The survey, completed in conjunction with the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre and the National Parents Council Primary (NPC), was based on report forms sent to 7,490 parents on the NPC mailing list regarding attitudes to online risks and safety, using the same questions as the Webwise 2012 survey. Over 1,000 parents responded (17 per cent).
The survey addressed four topics: strategies for digital parenting, attitudes towards children’s internet use, concerns about online risks and the appropriate age for social networking. Noting that the study results were limited from the “convenience nature of the sample”, Webwise said the findings were intended “as representative of parental attitudes.”
Recently media discourse about children and the internet has been dominated by concerns about ‘internet addiction’, ‘digital detoxes’ and ‘fake news’. Against this background, it is not surprising that parents are concerned about the impact of spending too much time looking at screens and accessing unreliable information, says the report.
“It is possible that there is a symbiosis at play here and that media reports might give rise to parental concerns that are not well grounded in actual risk of harm. However, more research is needed to guide this debate and there is an urgent need for a robust and up-to-date evidence base that measures children’s online behaviour and the related risk.”
On the strategies for digital parenting, Webwise found that parenting approaches towards children’s use of the internet was a mix of ‘restrictive’ and ‘active’ mediation. Restrictive approaches included: setting time limits (73 per cent); use of parental controls and filters (39 per cent); monitoring (52 per cent) and supervision (34 per cent). 68 per cent of parents who responded also use ‘enabling’ or ‘active’ strategies including regularly talking with their children about what they do online. This is an increase from 62 per cent since the 2012 Survey of Parental Attitudes.
Key parental concerns surrounding internet use were spending too much time online (72 per cent), accessing porn (71 per cent), cyberbullying (70 per cent), accessing unreliable information (70 per cent), online grooming (64 per cent) and damaging their reputation (64 per cent).
Broken down by age, the greatest concerns of parents of younger children were online grooming and spending too much time online, whereas for parents of older children the main concerns were cyberbullying and accessing porn.
Asked what was the right age for social media, 36 per cent of responding parents stated that 13 years and over was the appropriate age for a child to have a social media account (reflecting the current age restriction that applies to most social media platforms). 42 per cent of parents were in favour of raising the current age threshold for social networking from 13 years to 15 (30 per cent) or 17 (12 per cent).
Concluding the report, authors Lorleen Farrugia, Simon Grehan and Brian O’Neill said that notwithstanding its limitations, it gave rise to some important policy implications, including the need to support parents with more information and advice targeted to the age and needs of their children, the need for a national one-stop-shop where parents and professionals working with children can go for advice, and the need for advice presenting the benefits offered by the internet, rather than the current advice, which is ‘mainly focused on [potential] risk and harm’.
Source: Derry Now
Worldwide research into the benefits and risk of Internet use by young people
Global Kids Online research confirms that the majority of children say they learn something new online at least every week, but large numbers still face risks online.
The Global Kids Online project, launched earlier this week (1st November) at the Children’s Lives in the Digital Age seminar held at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, aims to build a global network of researchers using their research toolkit to investigate the risks and opportunities of child Internet use.Their initial research, carried out in Argentina, the Philippines, Serbia and South Africa, with support from UNICEF country offices, piloted the research toolkit, with the results being compared and combined to demonstrate both similarities and differences between countries.
The key findings of the pilot research include:
- Children predominantly access the Internet at home and through mobile devices – Children in all four countries report that they most frequently go online at home. Access to the Internet through schools is not as common
- The majority of children learn something new by searching the Internet – Most children who use the Internet say they learn something new online at least every week.
- Younger Internet users lack the digital skills of their older peers – There is a clear age trend in all four countries in terms of children’s self-reported ability to check if information they find online is true.
- Younger children’s digital safety skills also need support – Most of the older children, but fewer younger children, report knowing how to manage their privacy settings online, a key indication of their digital and safety skills.
- A substantial minority of young Internet users have had contact with unknown people online – Between 19 per cent (in the Philippines) and 41 per cent of children (in Serbia and South Africa) have been in touch online with somebody they have not met in person.
- Argentinian children are most likely to report having been bothered or upset online in the past year – Between a fifth (in South Africa) and three-quarters (in Argentina) of children report feeling upset about something that happened online, with older children reporting more incidents.
- Countries vary in the amount of risks encountered and the balance with online opportunities – As many as one third of children in Serbia reported being treated in a hurtful way by their peers, online or offline, though in South Africa and the Philippines only a fifth said this had happened to them.
- Children are most likely to seek support from a friend, and rarely from a teacher – In all four countries, the most common source of support is friends – between a third and two-thirds of children spoke to a friend the last time something upsetting happened online. Few children confided in a teacher, and the follow-up survey questions suggested that few children had received e-safety or digital literacy teaching at school.
One of the conclusions of the findings suggests that, “children are generally positive about the opportunities available for them online. However, children do not use the Internet in schools as much as expected and they generally do not see teachers as those they could confide in about what bothers them online”.
The toolkit is being made available for researchers to utilise allowing the research to be broadened globally. The project aims “to connect evidence with the ongoing international dialogue regarding policy and practical solutions for children’s well-being and rights in the digital age, especially in countries where the Internet is only recently reaching the mass market”.
More information about the project and a full copy of the pilot research findings can be found at blogs.lse.ac.uk/gko/
Source: eSafety Support
The Internet and Children: The Risks
The Internet offers many positive educational and social benefits to young people, but unfortunately there are risks, too. As in any other area of life, children and young people are vulnerable and may expose themselves to danger, knowingly or unknowingly, when using the internet and other digital technologies. Indeed, some young people may find themselves involved in activities which are inappropriate or possibly illegal.
One of the key risks of using the internet, email or chatrooms is that young people may be exposed to inappropriate material. This may be material that is pornographic, hateful or violent in nature; that encourages activities that are dangerous or illegal; or that is just age-inappropriate or biased. One of the key benefits of the web is that it is open to all, but unfortunately this also means that those with extreme political, racist or sexual views, for example, are able to spread their distorted version of the world.
In the case of pornography and child abuse images, there is no doubt that the internet plays host to a large amount of legal and illegal material.
The threat of physical danger is perhaps the most worrying and extreme risk associated with the use of the internet and other technologies, and is probably the risk most reported by the media.
A criminal minority make use of the internet and chatrooms to make contact with young people with the intention of developing relationships which they can progress to sexual activity. Paedophiles will often target a child, posing as a young person with similar interests and hobbies in order to establish an online ‘friendship’. These relationships may develop to a point where the paedophile has gained the trust in order to meet in person. These techniques are often known as ‘online enticement’, ‘grooming’ or ‘child procurement’.
Cyber Bullying – whether by internet, mobile phone or any other method – is another aspect of the use of new technologies that provide an anonymous method by which bullies can torment their victims. While a young person may or may not be in physical danger, they may receive email, chat or text messages that make them feel embarrassed, upset, depressed or afraid. This can damage their self-esteem and pose a threat to their psychological wellbeing.
Some young people may get involved in inappropriate, antisocial or illegal behaviour while using digital technologies. Just as in the real world, groups or cliques can form online, and activities that start out as harmless fun, such as voicing an opposing opinion to another member of a chatroom, can quickly escalate to something much more serious.
Some children and young people may become involved in other equally serious activities. Possible risks include involvement in identity theft or participation in hate or cult websites, or in the buying and selling of stolen goods. The ease of access to online gambling, suicide sites, sites selling weapons, hacking sites, and sites providing recipes for making drugs or bombs are also of great concern. There is some evidence to suggest that young people have become involved in the viewing, possession, making and distribution of indecent and/or child abuse/pornographic images.
Divulging Personal Information
Most parents do not allow their children to give out personal information online and around 50% of children acknowledge this. Just under half of 9-19 year old children who go online once a week say that they have given out personal information, such as their full name, age, address, email address, phone number, hobbies, name of their school etc., to someone they met on the internet.
In summary, risks associated with using the internet and digital technologies are often categorised as resulting from content, contact, commerce or culture.
|Exposure to age inappropriate material|
Exposure to inaccurate or misleading information
Exposure to socially unacceptable material that might incite violence hate or intolerance
Exposure to illegal material
|Exposure of minors to inappropriate commercial advertising|
Commercial and financial scams
Divulging personal information
|Grooming using communication technologies leading to assault of a sexual or other nature||Bullying via websites, mobile phones etc|
Downloading of copyrighted material for example music and films
Read our article The Internet: Advice For Parents which offers some useful advice.