I didn’t come up with the title for this article. Nor is it quoted from some expert on social media. The statement was made by a 13-year-old Maltese boy who took part in a study by EU Kids Online and the London School of Economics and Political Science, involving 9-16 year olds in nine European countries, including Malta.
The results of the study “The meaning of online problematic situations for children”, which have just been published, sheds important light on how children perceive potential risks and negative experiences on internet and how they react to them.
The study concludes that “Overall, the most common online problematic situation includes the sending of content that is violent, vulgar, or sexual. Other problematic situations include perpetrating, experiencing, and/or witnessing hateful, vulgar, or nasty messages. Although less covered in the risk literature, some involve being killed, cursed, excluded, and/or verbally assaulted in online games. Lastly, some include meeting online peers offline, sending “friend” requests or communicating with strangers not their own age.”
Maltese children are aware of internet addiction but have no qualms in accessing illegal content and downloading illegal games, software, videos and music as they don’t see any harm in it.
The role of the mass media in reporting stories about dangers and the consequences of negative experiences online is revealed quite clearly as children tend to get influenced by the media’s sensationalism in cases such as ‘stranger danger’ which they are less likely to experience.
Prevention seems to be favoured more than support-seeking by the interviewed children, and girls are more likely to seek social support than boys.
The study makes a very important recommendation to parents/guardians: shutting your children out is not an option and it’s harmful to their education because they don’t get to know how to deal with such situations!
“Instead of prohibiting access to or scaring children about online situations, parents in particular should be advised to discuss online experiences with their children, explain why something is risky, be sensitive about (particularly to older) children’s desire for a certain amount of privacy, and teach them about the broad array of online problematic situations they might encounter and how to avoid them,” the report tells parents/guardians.
A summary of the results from Malta are given in this video (in both Maltese and English):
= == = = = = ========
Martin Debattista is an award-winning freelance researcher, educator and writer in digital media. He is a pioneer technology journalist covering the scene since the launch of Internet in Malta in the mid-1990s. He has just concluded post-graduate research at masters level on content curation (sharing) on Facebook and is currently leading the research project to introduce tablets in all Maltese Primary Schools. He can be followed on Twitter @techtinu