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Pan-European survey of 25,000 kids

A just-released survey of more than 25,000 9-to-16-year-olds (and one of each child’s parents) in 25 European countries recommends that Internet companies “provide more ways for children to block, filter or report alarming online content and contacts,” yet only a little over a quarter (28%) of families surveyed actually use such tech tools. According to the study’s press release, the findings suggest that “both children and parents are reassured when given tools to take action against online dangers such as bullying, sexual content and intrusive strangers,” but “they often don’t use the options available (including online safety advice or the so-called ‘panic buttons’ operated by social networking sites).” The press release, from the EU Kids Online study based at the London School of Economics and Political Science, adds that 82% of European children “are not bothered or upset by what they encounter online,” though children targeted by bullying – which only 5% say they’ve experienced – “were the most likely to say this upset them.”

But – because blocking mechanisms provide little real protection on a social Web where safety, privacy and reputation protection are very much a shared experience – here’s what I was glad to see the authors recommend: “Children should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own safety online as much as possible.” They can do that when, from the first moment they use a phone or any other social technology, they’re given opportunities to practice civility, respect for self and others, and critical thinking about what they share and consume (new media literacy). But all those can be practiced offline too, at home, daycare, etc. even before they pick up a phone or gameplayer. [See also “Learning how to save lives on Facebook,” “Why digital citizenship’s a hot topic (globally),” and “For our kids’ sake, more than accountability online, pls.”]

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  1. It’s surprising to hear how small a percentage of families use tech tools to take action against online dangers. You made an important point that in a world of shared experiences, blocking tools are only as strong as everyone else’s ability to also utilize those tools.

    I was glad to hear a conclusion that hit the nail on the head. Children should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own safety online as much as possible. We should look at this situation as an opportunity to practice civility and teach children to be respectable digital citizens.

    January 27, 2011

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