EU Kids Online I (2006-9)

The EU Kids Online project examined research carried out in 21 member states into how people, especially children and young people, use new media

As the internet and new online technologies are becoming embedded in everyday life, pressing questions arise regarding their social implications and consequences.

Children, young people and their families tend to be in the vanguard of new media adoption, benefiting from early take-up of new opportunities afforded by the internet, mobile and broadband content, online games, peer-to-peer technologies, and so forth. However, they also encounter a range of risky or negative experiences for which they may be unprepared. These risks, the everyday contexts in which they occur, and the ways in which they are being addressed, are all subject to continual change.

To guide the development of a flexible policy framework and develop the academic agenda in this field, a rigorous, updated, context-sensitive research base is vital.

The EU Kids Online project examined research carried out in 21 member states into how people, especially children and young people, use new media. In this three-year collaboration, researchers across a diverse range of countries collaborated, through meetings, networking and dissemination activities, to identify, compare and evaluate the available evidence.

Key questions included:

  • What research exists, is ongoing or, crucially, is still needed?
  • What risks exist, for which technologies, and in relation to which (sub)populations?
  • How do social, cultural and regulatory influences affect the incidence and experience of, and the responses to, different risks?
  • Further, in accounting for current and ongoing research, and anticipating future research, what factors shape the research capability of European research institutions and networks?

The aim was to identify comparable research findings across member states on the basis of which recommendations for child safety, media literacy and awareness could be formulated. The project members invited communications from the wider community, practitioners and researchers in order to achieve this goal.

Participating countries

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • The Netherlands
  • The United Kingdom

Objectives

  1. To identify and assess the quality and comparability of data (recent or ongoing) across Europe regarding children's access to and use of the internet and new online technologies, noting gaps in the evidence base. (See work package 1: data availability)
  2. To understand the research itself in context, assessing the reasons why certain types of research are available (or not) in each nation, given different intellectual, social, institutional and funding systems. This understanding is vital for guiding the future research agenda. (See work package 2: research contexts)
  3. To compare the available data across nations so as to identify the changing risks and safety concerns associated with new media, assessing their distribution, significance and consequences for diverse populations (age, gender, region, nation, etc). (See work package 3: research comparisons)
  4. To understand these risks in context. (See work package 3: research comparisons). Several contexts are anticipated:
    • Use of new and old media in everyday life, including positive and negative media experiences
    • Different cultural contexts of childhood
    • Different policy/ regulatory contexts, particularly across nations.
  5. To enhance our understanding of methodological issues involved in studying children and the internet and in particular those relating to cross-cultural analysis, both for future research in this field and for European comparative studies more generally. (See work package 4: methodological issues)
  6. To network researchers across different countries, disciplines and approaches building on continuities while acknowledging different starting points, so as to share existing knowledge, build capacity and work towards a consensual framework for future research. (See work package 6: networking and dissemination activities) 
  7. To develop evidence-based policy recommendations for raising awareness, media literacy and other practical actions to promote safer use of the internet and new online technologies, particularly but not only for children across Europe. (See work package 5: policy and research recommendations)

Work packages

Data availability

The first task, addressing objective 1, is to identify what quantitative and qualitative data are available in member countries. Certainly this includes children's access to and usage of the internet, but also their more general experience of it, competences and evaluation of the online world.

To contextualise this, we also need to know about their use of other information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as television and PCs. We will also try to map data on parents' experience of the internet and approaches to dealing with their children's usage.

The aim is to identify the pattern of available data, where there is a preponderance of material and where there are gaps, and also how easy it is to find material to assist future research. We also aim to assess to comparability of existing data.

In addition to the Europe-wide sources that can be consulted for this purpose, the work package members will identify and outline in a proforma relevant national research, which will then form part of the repository documenting what research exists.

The first output from the work package will be a report on Data Availability, charting the availability and comparability of data on children and the internet in Europe. The second output will be an online repository of links to the data sources that will be developed throughout the project.

Research contexts

The task of this work package, dealing with objective 2, is to ask why different aspects of children and the internet are researched, or not, in different European countries. What are the national histories of concern about the internet? How much is common across countries and how much is country specific? Do any differences, for instance, reflect particular events, particular national lobbying by certain groups or particular forms of coverage in the national media?

The work package will entail looking at and documenting the funding arrangements for research in different types of European country, examining the research traditions and disciplines dealing both with the internet and with children in the participating countries. The work package will also examine existing research on the topic of children and the internet, asking in what ways children's experience of the internet has been analysed, with what types of research question and for which purposes. Finally, it will give some indication of the effects on research of media coverage, national policy decisions, particular events, particular lobbies, educational activities, etc.

The starting point will involve the systematic development of a range of questions one would need to ask about these histories for each country and then a process of identifying what people or sources could contribute to answering such questions.

The work group will set up its own online forum on the website to provide an ongoing report of its findings and encourage contributions to this from the wider international research community throughout the course of this project.

The output from the work package will be a report, Cross-Cultural Contexts of Research, focusing on the research and cultural contexts regarding children and the internet in Europe.

Research comparisons

This work package evaluates the actual data that have to exist in order to address objectives 3 and 4. Where, and to what extent, are there European commonalities as opposed to variation? Where are there common European responses and patterns and then to what extent are they shared? In contrast, where is there variation and how do we characterise this? To the extent that the data is available, this will obviously include looking at children's different experiences of the internet, but could also cover whether some safety issues are thought to be more important than others and how much variation there is in the level and form of parental intervention.

A first preliminary report will provide a three-country comparison. The second output will be a report, Cross-National Comparisons, which will evaluate and compare the findings of existing data on children and the internet/ new online technologies in Europe.

Methodological issues

This work package addresses objective 5. Hence it will focus both on specific cross-cultural issues and on broader methodological issues involved in studying children and the internet/ new media, with the aim of developing a best practice guide.

It will start with a review of the limited material on methodological issues in this field of cross-cultural comparisons, which will be the basis for a preliminary report. It will then reflect upon the questions and challenges thrown up by research on children and internet use and safety. This includes charting common problems in conducting such research together with proposed solutions and, especially, identifying best practice in the field. The deliverable will be a guide incorporating this material and indicating how to conduct future research on this topic, including the provision of sample themes and questions.

In addition, the work group will seek to engage others beyond the network, the wider community of scholars involved in cross-cultural research (including efforts to align quantitative research measuring the internet), and those scholars specifically involved in research on children and the internet.

The first output will a preliminary report: Methodological Issues Review. The second will be a report, Best Practice Research Guide, synthesising key methodological issues and providing clear guidance to those working in the field. We anticipate that this may include members of the network as well as the wider research and policy community.

Policy and research recommendations

The stated aim of the EC call for thematic networks is to support and inform other actions: fighting against illegal content, tackling unwanted and harmful content and promoting a safer internet. Hence, this project will provide specific recommendations for these actions.

At a more general level, there will be recommendations relating to EC policy in this field of children and the internet, ones that relate to the wider contextualisation of the issues that will emerge from this project. In the light of the work of work package 1 especially, charting the availability and comparability of data, work package 5 will make a number of recommendations specifically about research, thus furthering objective 7. This will cover any significant gaps that have been identified, where it might be strategic to conduct research in some specific countries in order to produce equivalent data to those that exist elsewhere. There will be suggestions regarding what measures might be taken to derive more comparable data, where this is felt to be useful.

A report, Summary and Recommendations, will provide an executive summary of the work of the network in order to ground a series of research and policy recommendations regarding children and their use of the internet and online technologies in Europe.

Networking and dissemination activities

This work package addresses objective 6. This involves identifying and contacting other Safer Internet Plus Programme actions to discuss with them the forms of reporting (especially in the recommendations) that would be most usable and effective for them.

The work package members will explore ways to disseminate the findings from the research via the more traditional means of conference papers, workshops, a project website and producing regular electronic alerts. The work package will help to plan its own conference at the end to report on its findings. We also aim to publish a book from the project.

Lastly, part of the task of this work package entails identifying and making contact with other potential audiences. From the start and throughout, one task involves assembling a list of relevant people and bodies who we feel might benefit from an awareness of the project, in this sense 'building a wider audience'. This will be tied into the process of identifying relevant research in work package 1.

 

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