Children Face Online Risks

internet security1

One in five children has been bothered by something they have seen online in the past year, according to a new study.

The Net Children Go Mobile Study, which looks at a broad range of web-related issues such as online bullying, types of online activities, the number of smartphone users, how children access the internet, perceptions, risks and sexual messages, surveyed 500 9-16 year olds who were interviewed on a face-to-face basis in their homes.

“Exposure to online risks appears greater among children who also use mobile devices to go online when compared to the 2010 EU Kids Online data,” says Giovanna Mascheroni, the head of the European-wide project, “As children go online more in a variety of contexts and from a wider range of devices, they also encounter more risks.”

The study found that 22% of children have experienced some level of bullying, while 35% of teenage girls aged 13-16 have seen some type of hateful content. 47% of teenagers have seen sexual images in the past 12 months, compared to 11% of younger children. About half of the older children who did receive sexual images said they were disturbed by them. 10% of 13-14 year olds and 22% of 15-16 year olds reported receiving sexual messages online, while one in five children have had contact with people they have never met in person.

“Mobile devices have helped young people to intensify their Internet use but their concerns about content and risks of bullying are rising,” says Dr. Brian O’Neill, Head of Research at DIT’s College of Arts and Tourism, a co-author of the report and the Chair of the Government’s Internet Content Advisory Group. “More awareness of the risks and safety implications of mobile internet use is needed.”

The results of the survey show that smartphone devices are the most used within the 9-16 age category, with 35%, versus 29% gaining access through laptops, and 27% through tablet devices.

The study also stipulates that eight out of ten 15-16 year olds have a profile on a social networking site but also suggests some 82% of parents are actively involved in guiding their child’s internet usage. Educational institutions are also lending a helping hand, with 81% of teachers explaining why some websites are good and why others are bad.

“The whole thing about the mobile devices is that it’s much more personal and private, so it’s harder for parents to intervene or monitor what’s going on,” says Simon Grehan, Webwise Project Co-ordinator with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST). “I think for parents you really want to be the person that your child speaks to when something goes wrong; it’s really about communication rather than rules.”

The report was published to coincide with the Safer Internet day in Ireland back in February and carried out by the statistic company Ipsos MRBI in December 2013.

By Liam Cahill