Australian kids are among the Internet’s most prolific and vulnerable users globally with findings from a new report showing three in ten have been exposed to disturbing images and cyber bullying.
The AU Kids online study ‘Risk and safety for Australian children on the internet’ surveyed 400 Australian children and was carried out in parallel with the EU Kids Online project—a survey of European children’s experiences on the Internet.
Australian children were found to be among the youngest internet users when comparing the Australian and 25-nation European study.
ECU academic and lead author of the report Professor Leila Green carried out the study as part of the University of NSW ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CGI).
Prof Green says this is the first Australian study of its kind where 9–16 year old children were directly interviewed on a large scale about their online experience.
“It gives us significant empirically sound information about the opportunities and the risks for Australian children in the online and mobile media era,” she says.
A finding of the study is that 76 per cent of Australian children and young teenagers go online daily, averaging at one and a half hours per day.
Top activities were reported as using the internet for schoolwork, watching video clips, playing games and emailing, with social networking at 63 per cent.
The report says twenty-eight per cent of Australian 11–16 year olds have seen sexual images online.
“Thirty per cent of Australian children reported encountering something online that upset or bothered them—two and a half times the European average,” says Prof Green.
“The content predominantly related to online bullying and sexual images, which were more likely to bother younger users.”
“The study reveals that while a minority of children are upset by online risks, many benefit from the advice and tools available to them. The risks and opportunities of the online world go hand-in-hand for children and it is important to avoid being overly restrictive.”
The study also reveals that supervision of online use is high in Australia.
“One of the pleasing findings was that parental mediation of online use and safety was high in Australia and that teachers were also very active in guiding children on internet use,” says Prof Green.
It was found that despite significant efforts in recent years into raising awareness and safety online for Australian children, a relatively high proportion are bothered by some things they experience online.
The report suggests future safety efforts “should focus especially on younger children as they gain internet access, and on the diversification of platforms.”
By Hope Holborow
(Source: ScienceNetwork WA)