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/