EU Kids Online

The EU Kids Online research network concluded their work with a one day conference in London on 11 June 2009. The network also published a Final Report provides a unique summary of EU-Based research on children online.

The Final Report and other resources can be found on the network website here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/EUKidsOnline/

Your attention is drawn in particular to the Online Database of European Research (Repository) collated by the network.

Recommendations for Policy Makers

E-Inclusion
  • Children’s internet use is greatly encouraged by their parents’ internet use – hence parents should be encouraged to be online
  • Online opportunities are a matter of rights, see UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • Article 12: rights to express views on matter affecting them
    • Article 13: Freedom of expression through an medium of their choice
    • Article 15: Freedom of association
    • Article 16: Protection of privacy
  • It is inherent to childhood and especially adolescence to take risks, push boundaries and evade adult scrutiny – this is how children gain resilience
  • Balancing empowerment and protection is a crucial task
    • Increasing online access tends to increase online risk
    • Media literacy and interface design can help to redress this
  • It is proposed that each child climbs a ‘ladder of online opportunities’
    • Information seeking > games & communication > creative and civic activities
  • [there should be] positive online provision of accessible and high quality contents and services for children that will
    • develop to their fullest potential
    • affirm their sense of self, community and place
    • promote awareness and appreciation of other cultures
    • extend capacities to be creative, learn and participate

Education and the Role of Schools
  • Greater internet use is associated with higher levels of education
  • Schools are best place to reach all children to teach them digital and critical literacy skills
  • Schools should have access to trained staff and ICT equipment and should not see internet use outside the school as outside its remit
Awareness-raising
  • Priorities for awareness-raising should focus on
    • Countries identified as high risk
      • Estonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and UK
    • Countries that have recently adopted the internet or where access appears to exceed skills and cultural adjustments
      • Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Poland and Portugal
    • Countries where children’s use exceeds parents
      • Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania
  • Priority should be given to awareness-raising in younger children e.g. between 6 – 10, measure should also be in place for all age groups
  • Strategies should differentiate between:
    • Girls and Boys
    • Children from higher and lower socioeconomic status households (the latter experience online risks disproportionately)
  • Awareness-raising should include how children cope with risk e.g. there should be guidance on what to do after a child has experienced a problem online
  • Policies should address the vulnerable in a proportionate manner and not unduly negatively impact the opportunities of the majority, and should note that
    • Victims are often also perpetrators
    • Those vulnerable online may also be vulnerable offline
  • Service for the protection of the vulnerable offline should extend to online risks
  • It should be recognized that
    • Some children perpetrate online risks out of malice, playfulness or mere accident
    • Those that experience online risk may go on to generate online risk
    • Those that create risks may themselves be victims
    • Those that are vulnerable online are likely to lack adequate social and parental support offline
Advising Parents
  • Parents are responsible for their children’s safety, online as offline
  • The limits of policies that rely on parents should be recognized
  • The effectiveness of parental mediation depends on context so this must be taken into account when devising policies
  • It is unproven that parental mediation strategies of any kind are effective in reducing online risk
Co- and self-regulatory codes and practices
  • In respect of the internet: there are good grounds to strengthen regulatory frameworks
  • Self and co-regulatory initiatives are important for content that is not illegal but which, research suggests, can be harmful to children
  • The effectiveness of self-regulatory provision in improving children’s safety has not been indepednetly validated
  • Further work is needed in: use and abuse of children’s personal information online
  • There is an analogy between interent aftey and road saftey
    • Children have to learn to cross the road
    • Also
      • There are rules of the road
      • There are ways to complain if things go wrong
  • Hence: children can only be taught to be safe in an envrionment that is already regulated
  • Internet ‘traffic saftey’ includes
    • Child friendly default settings
    • Filtering preferences
    • Age verification
    • Content rating and labelling
    • Design standards
    • opt-in / opt-out

Other highlights from the main findings

One of the interesting findings of the study is summaries in this ‘Ranking of risk incidents in Europe’:

  • Giving out personal information (about 50 %)
  • Seeing pornography online (about 40 %)
  • Seeing violent or hateful content (about 30 %)
  • Being bullied (i.e. ‘cyber-bullied’, about 20 %)
  • Receiving unwanted sexual comments (about 20 %)
  • Meeting an online contact offline (about 10 %)

However it was noted that there is wide nation variation of childrens’ exposure to risk:

Clusters of ‘high risk’ countries:

  • Bulgaria and Poland
    • Low on investments from government and industry
    • Low on online content provision
    • Low on educational policy
  • UK and the Netherlands
    • Heavy internet use
    • Successful government in promoting use of ICT
    • Important role of ISP’s
    • Large initiatives for raising awareness for safety
  • Estonia and Slovenia
    • High use
    • Well developed legal framework and educational policy
    • ISP’s active role in safeguarding
    • Lack of provision of online media content for children
  • Czech Republic
    • High use
    • High efforts in education
    • High efforts in awareness
    • Low on all other conditions
  • Norway

    • High use
    • High efforts in education and awareness
    • Strong legal framework and ICT promotion
    • Medium provision of online media content for children
    • ISP’s passive about safeguarding Internet safety

The team summarized the conditions that impact exposure to risk as follows:

  • ‘High use’ seems to be a constant condition (except for Bulgaria)
  • Robust legal framework does not automatically guarantee a low degree of risk
  • Provision of online media content that positively meets children’s need and interests seems to be significant
  • When high use is accompanied by low provision of online content for children,
    risk arises surely.

Attention is also drawn to the papers relating directly to computer games presented and debated at the conference, these are as follows:

The Conference also announced the launch of EU Kids Online II which will conduct primary research accross the EU.

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