February 28, 2021

Is the Internet really dangerous for children?

According to this survey, a small minority is facing problems with Internetand when they do, very few say they have been disturbed. Relationships between parents and children aboutInternet also appear more harmonious than for television. But there is a but ... About half of the parents whose parents children have encountered a problem have not known. What are his main results?

Internet practices and uses of 9-16 year olds

Internet is completely integrated with the daily life of children 93% of 9-16 year olds surf the web at least once a week and 60% go every day or almost every day. They spend an average of one hour and a half per day and 50% say they "feel more themselves" online than in face-to-face relationships (boys a little more than girls, a little more children from popular backgrounds than senior, and most at 13/14 years). The children go on Internet younger and younger: the average age at first entry is 7 years in Denmark and Sweden compared to 8 years in several other countries in Northern Europe. In France the average age is 9 years for the first web browsing.

Where do children use the most Internet

87% of children Europeans use Internet at home, 63% at school, 53% at friends' homes and 42% at other family members. At home, they are 49% to connect in the bedroom against 39% to do it in a common room. In France, the use in the bedroom (41%) is below this European average, while small Danes are a large majority (74%) to connect from their room.

Participation in social networks affects a majority of children and increases with age: 59% of 9-16 year olds have a profile on a social network - this is the case for 26% of 9-10 year olds, compared to 81% of 15-16 year olds. This profile is public in 26% of cases. Girls are more likely to have a private profile.

Who do they communicate with? 

Usually with known people or people who have connections with people they know. But 25% of children maintain online communication with strangers, especially when participating in chats, games or virtual worlds.

The dangers: tune-ups

The two most common problems faced by young people are access to unhealthy content and excessive use ofInternet. 21% of 11/16-year-olds were confronted with unhealthy content posted online: hate messages against certain groups (12%), pro-anorexic (10% on average, but 19% of girls aged 14/16), calls for self-harm (7%), drug use (7%) or suicide (5%).
France is the country of the European Union least affected by this problem: 14% of young French are against 21% of Europeans and 43% of Czechs and Norwegians. 23% of 11-16 year olds report negative experiences related to excessive use ofInternet neglect friends, lack of sleep or school problems.

Word problem used by parents does not necessarily have the same connotation for children

14% of children have seen sexual images but they are one third to consider that it has been a painful experience (2). 15% have received sexual messages but only a quarter say they have experienced bad experiences. 9% of children have met a known person on Internet and only one in eight of those who made such encounters experienced it as a disruptive experience. 53% of these encounters with strangers are done by taking a friend with you. Young people who say they have been disturbed by a problem Internet are a small minority: only 8% of 9/16 in France and 12% in Europe.

6% of 9-16 year olds received aggressive or offensive messages on Internet (and 3% sent it themselves). Two-thirds of those who received this type of message said they felt "somewhat" or "very" bothered. The percentages of those who say they have been anxious about this harassment are higher for girls and children of popular origin. But these are not lasting anxieties.

In addition, harassment is more frequent face-to-face (13% of children) that on Internet (6% of children) or by mobile phone (3%). Online harassment is spread mostly on social networks and instant messaging. Boys, especially teens, are more exposed to online sexual images (3), while girls are more likely to receive aggressive or offensive messages. Girls are generally more likely to be disturbed by these problems. The teens take more risks than younger ones, but they say they are less disturbed.

Parent and child relations about the Internet

The relations appear little conflictual. The use of parental control devices is relatively low: only a quarter of parents block or filter certain sites (28%) or look at the history of the sites consulted by their parents. children (24%). Parents mainly restrict the distribution of personal data (85%), and downloading (57%). 70% of parents say they speak with their parents children of what they do on Internet

56% give their children advice and 52% discuss with them what might worry them. 36% have already helped their children when something was wrong. 68% think that their parents know "a lot" or "rather a lot" about their uses ofInternet. 44% think that their parents' mediation limits their activities online and only 13% would like their parents to intervene less.

When there are problems, are parents always aware?

The parental underestimate is very strong! 40% of parents, including children have seen sexual images, think that this has not happened to them. 52% of parents whose children received sexual messages and 56% of those whose children have received aggressive messages have not known. Ditto for 61% of parents whose children met face-to-face a person known by Internet.

Other sources of advice

Teachers play an important advisory role, especially for teens the older ones and the children of popular social origin. But there are big differences between countries. 73% of children say that their peers helped them to Internet. Information from television, radio, newspapers, cinema and advertising is little used (20% of children) and online safety tips even less.

Children and the Internet (February 2021)