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New research reveals how children engage with the internet

By Megan Rose

A new report has provided a revealing insight into children’s online behaviours.

The Global Kids Online Synthesis Report 2015-2016, conducted by the UNICEF office of Research and the London School of Economics and Political Science, surveyed children across the globe in order to establish how they interact with the online world.

The pilot study involved children in Argentina, South Africa, Serbia and the Philippines who were aged between nine and 17 years old. The results highlight clear similarities in how they use the internet and the impact this has had on their lives.

8 in 10 children said they primarily used their smartphones to access the internet, which was usually done at home. Researchers concluded that this particular trend ‘reduces’ parents and caregivers’ opportunities to remain involved in a child’s online life.

As well as this, the research found that younger children didn’t possess the skills to cope with online challenges as well as their older peers. This particular finding did not depend on a child’s gender, but simply their age. Similar results as these were also found in some parents. In South Africa, for example, parents’ digital skills were found to be the same as their 12-14 year old children.

Three quarters of children in Argentina stated that they had reported something upsetting online, compared to just a fifth in South Africa. The research also found that many children  would look to a friend, rather than a teacher, for support when coming across something that troubled them online.

Despite this, the research highlighted the positive way children utilised the internet. It found that the majority of children praised it as a successful way to learn something new.

In response to the report, Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti, said: ‘Research with children allows us to create a more realistic portrait of the significant opportunities as well as the safety concerns for children online. Hearing children’s aspirations and concerns is vital for translating this knowledge into messages for policy makers.’


Further reading:

Having a positive digital footprint

Online myths and facts


Image: CC BY SA-2.0