One of the largest grants ever won by the London School of Economics and Political Science, for 2.5 million euros, has been awarded to Professor Sonia Livingstone for new research into children's experiences of risks on the internet.
Professor Livingstone will spend two years conducting original empirical research into online safety issues experienced by thousands of children aged 9-16 and their parents in up to 25 EU countries.
Online risks include exposure to inappropriate content, such as pornography, unwelcome contact, such as sexual grooming, and inappropriate conduct by children themselves, including bullying.
"At last, Europe's children are to be asked directly what they see as the opportunities and risks of the internet," said Professor Livingstone, a professor of social psychology in the LSE's department of media and communications.
"To inform public policy, and to counter the media panics, this new project will examine the nature, extent and consequences of youthful experiences of online risk, as reported to the researchers by a thousand 9-16 year olds in each of twenty or more European countries.
"At the same time, their parents will be asked how they see the risks and what they do to try to minimise them.
'By next summer, EU Kids Online will present comparable findings for each country, pinpointing for which children in which countries the various kinds of online risk are greatest.'
This is the second project undertaken by the EU Kids Online network comprising around 70 academics across Europe. The first evaluated the findings of nearly 400 studies of children's experiences of online risk across 21 countries.
Key findings from the first project, to be published on Thursday (June 11th), include the discovery that giving out personal information is the most common risky behaviour, while meeting an online contact offline is much less common although it remains the most dangerous risk.
It also found that children from lower status homes are more exposed to risk online. Across countries, there is a link between use and risk: Northern European countries tend to be 'high use, high risk'; Southern European countries tend to be 'low use, low risk'; and Eastern European countries tend to be 'new use, new risk.'
The report makes policy recommendations to minimise risks. These include strengthening regulatory frameworks, more industry self-regulation and more awareness-raising initiatives. Evidence suggests that awareness-raising should now focus on children new to the internet, on young children, and on disadvantaged children.
The research adds that making the internet safer for children is made difficult because those experiencing more risks are often those who take up more opportunities – reducing the risks may also reduce the opportunities. More positively, EU Kids Online found that as many parents as children are now online across Europe, so they can play an active role in helping keep children safe.
For more information on EU Kids Online, and for report to be launched on June 11: EU Kids Online
For Professor Livingstone's profile: Professor Sonia Livingstone
The new grant was awarded by the EC Safer Internet Programme based in Luxembourg. It starts on 1st July, and runs for 2 years.
Professor Livingstone will direct a project team that will include a multinational management group, an international advisory panel, and research teams in over 20 participating countries.
Professor Livingstone can be contacted on 020 7955 7710 or 07791 663698
For more information, please call Joanna Bale, LSE Press on 07831 609679