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Kids Online – Risk or Fun?

Kids Online – Risk or Fun?

Hamburg, 19 September 2019: Children and young people use the Internet intensively and in very different ways. In doing so, they are confronted with a variety of risks. However, their risk perception and risk awareness do not always coincide with those of their parents. These are the results of the representative EU Kids Online Survey in Germany, conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI).

Three quarters of the 12- to 14-year-olds and 90 percent of the 15- to 17-year-olds in Germany are regularly online using their smartphones. Adolescents spend an average of up to three hours a day on the Internet.

Children Have a Different Understanding of Risk Concerning Sexual Content

Parents often worry about their children's online use. At the same time, many underestimate the frequency with which their children experience certain things online. Parents' assessments of contact with sexual content on the Internet in particular differ significantly from their children's actual experiences. 54 percent of the 12- to 17-year-olds interviewed said they had come into contact with sexual representations in the form of texts, photos or videos in the past twelve months - mostly via the Internet. 37 percent of them even specifically selected these. What parents perceive as a risk often does not seem to be a bad thing for adolescents, but rather attractive: 61 percent of boys like sexual content.
"In some respects, children have a different understanding of risk than adults. While parents, for example, are concerned that their child will come into contact with sexual content, the results show that this content does not have to be negative per se, but can also fulfil an information or orientation function for adolescents in the context of their sexual development," says Prof. Dr. Uwe Hasebrink, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut.

Parents Share Children's Photos Carelessly on the Internet

There are also differences of opinion regarding the unsolicited publication of children's photos by parents (sharenting). Nine percent of children aged 9 to 17 report that their parents have posted texts, pictures or videos of them on the Internet without their consent. Six percent were angry about the information published or asked their parents to delete it. The adults themselves do not always seem to be aware of the effects of their online activities, some of which are just as intensive.
"The results also indicate that a lack of awareness of the consequences of their own media activities can lead to risks for others. This also applies to parents. Not all adolescents, for example, like it when their parents publish and distribute pictures of them online without being asked. A sensitisation also with regard to the rights of children would be necessary here", says Hasebrink.

Target Group and Risk-Specific Action Approaches Required

The results show that it is not possible to speak of THE online use and experience. Depending on the age-related phase of development and gender-specific preferences, sometimes also based on family background, children and adolescents develop very specific patterns of dealing with online media. "Children are confronted with different risks depending on their usage behaviour and need a set of different media skills and coping strategies which they can use flexibly and which helps them to exploit the potential of the Internet and meet challenges on the Net with confidence," concludes Hasebrink.

Information about the Study

For this representative study, the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) interviewed 1,044 children and adolescents aged between 9 and 17 as well as parents about their online experiences. The institute is part of the international research network EU Kids online. The study was supported by UNICEF, the Deutsche Telekom Foundation, the Niedersächsische Landesmedienanstalt (NLM) and the Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (mpfs).

The full report "Online-Erfahrungen von 9- bis 17-Jährigen. Ergebnisse der EU Kids Online-Befragung in Deutschland 2019 [Online Experiences of 9- to 17-Year-Olds. Results of the EU Kids Online Survey in Germany 2019]" and a summary of the results can be found at www.leibniz-hbi.de/uploads/media/Publikationen/cms/media/s3lt3j7_EUKO_Bericht_DE_190917.pdf.

Information about the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)

The Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) examines media change and the related structural shifts in public communication. It combines basic research and research on knowledge transfer from cross-media, interdisciplinary and independent scholarly perspectives. Thus, the institute is a valued provider of problem-specific knowledge for politics, commerce and civil society. In 2019, the institute became a member of the Leibniz Association. More information at www.leibniz-hbi.de/en.


Christiane Matzen, Tel. 040 45 02 17 41, c.matzen@leibniz-hbi.de


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