June 6, 2014

NEWS / REPORTS: Sensationalist media coverage skewing children’s ability to assess online risk

Sensationalist media coverage of online risks such as cyberbullying or the dangers
of meeting an online 'friend' offline, may be acting as a barrier to effectively
educating children on e-safety, a new report has claimed.
The report, released today (Monday 2 June) from the EU Kids Online project based
at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), explores how
children between the ages of 9-16 across Europe experience the internet.
The findings reveal that children are strongly influenced by the media's often
sensationalist reporting of certain online risks, despite the fact that these are in
reality less likely to be experienced by the majority of online users.
This can lead to them focusing more attention on these potential risks than those
they are more likely to experience, such as exposure to violent or sexual content,
which is in reality a more common online problem reported by children, or witnessing
or receiving nasty messages.
E-safety education, the researchers recommend, should therefore incorporate the
need to educate children on the drawbacks of some media coverage as well as
warning about potential online dangers.
Dr Leslie Haddon, a visiting lecturer at LSE and one of the report's authors, said:
"We believe that most of the current prevention programmes are too narrowly
focused on issues such as personal data protection and the dangers of meeting
online strangers offline whereas children are in reality, more likely to have to deal
with nasty messages. Children need a more thorough and broader education about
the online world to help them to evaluate better and deal with the broad assortment
of problematic situations they may encounter."
The research also shows how children's perceptions of online interactions can differ
from adults. This is especially the case with online bullying, with children reporting
the online aggression they have experienced as something that 'just happens' rather
than viewing it as cyberbullying. This can lead to children disengaging or minimising
their problems with this online behaviour, which can have the result of normalising
peer aggression.
Professor Sonia Livingstone who heads the EU Kids Online project at LSE said: "It's
important to help children to understand how 'just teasing' can escalate into serious
harmful incidents. Once they see how online communication can make things worse,
children should be motivated to take preventive measures to neutralise aggressive
exchanges before they get out of hand."
For the full report, Meaning of online problematic situations for children. Results of
qualitative cross-cultural investigation in nine European countries edited by David
šmahel and Michelle F Wright, see the EU Kids Online project.


Dr Leslie Haddon, 020 8441 2959, l.g.haddon@lse.ac.uk
Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, 020 7955 7060, pressoffice@lse.ac.uk

or see www.eukidsonline.net  

No comments: