It is vital to chart and understand the complex nature of the changing risk context for children and their families, so as to inform policy makers, educators and the public about emerging online trends and possible solutions. EU Kids Online II was a new project designed to examine children's and parents' experiences and practices regarding use, risk and safety online.
Between 2009 and 2011, EU Kids Online II conducted original empirical research across member states with national samples of children aged 9-16 years old and their parents. The aim was to produce a rigorous, cross-nationally comparative quantitative evidence base regarding internet use across Europe.
Co-ordinated by Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Leslie Haddon of the London School of Economics and Political Science, the project team included a multinational management group, an international advisory panel, and research teams in 25 participating countries across Europe.
This was the second project undertaken by the EU Kids Online network comprising some 70 experts in the social uses of the internet and new media, media education and digital literacy, childhood and family studies, the psychology of adolescence and identity, legal and regulatory perspectives, and research methods.
The context for our project
EU Kids Online I (2006-9) examined available findings on cultural, contextual and risk issues in children's use of online technologies across 21 countries. It located and evaluated findings from 400+ studies, identifying key findings and pinpointing gaps in the evidence base. Its reports examine data availability, comparative findings, best research practice, research contexts and policy recommendations.
Online risks high on public, research and policy agendas include exposure to inappropriate content (e.g. pornographic, self-harm and violent content, racist/hate material), unwelcome contact (e.g. grooming, sexual harassment, bullying, abuse of personal information and privacy) and, attracting growing attention, inappropriate conduct by children themselves (e.g. bullying, abuse of privacy).
But exactly how common these risks are, how much risks result in genuine harm, how children react, whether some children are particularly vulnerable, how parents can or should act - all these questions and more await cross-nationally comparative and reliable research for their answers. Furthermore, it is important to avoid moral panics or exaggerated anxieties, particularly as these may result in efforts to constrain children's freedoms or limit their opportunities online.
Adopting an approach which is child-centred, comparative, critical and contextual, EU Kids Online II aimed to design, conduct and analyse a major quantitative survey of children's experiences of online risk. The survey encompassed questions about children's internet use, digital literacy, coping responses, perceptions and safety practices. These findings were systematically compared to the perceptions and practices of their parents.
Core findings regarding children's and parents' experiences of online technologies, focused on comparisons of children's and parents' perceptions of and practices regarding online risk and safety.
Patterns of risk and safety online to be identified following top-down hypothesis testing and bottom-up exploration of relationships among different variables, conducted on a cross-national basis.
Evidence-based policy and research recommendations.
Autumn 2009 Project planning, survey design, sampling
Spring 2010 Testing the questionnaire
Summer 2010 Fieldwork
Autumn 2010 Report on core findings
Spring 2011 Contextual and comparative analysis
Summer 2011 Final report and recommendations
EU Kids Online II participating countries
International advisory panel