To mark Safer Internet Day, we are launching a good practice guide which highlights both the potential and actual consequences of online risks encountered by children. Developed as a collaboration between Insafe and Media@LSE, the guide offers a range of case studies presented to illustrate the harms to children and the way professionals can respond constructively. Links to additional resources are provided to encourage access to more information and centres of support.
New online technologies are increasingly embedded in children’s lives. As such, there are emerging questions about their social implications and consequences. While today’s youth are often at the forefront of media adoption, they are also prone to a range of ever-evolving, risky or negative experiences for which they may not be fully prepared.
Classifying and responding to online risk to children is a good practice guide that focuses on the nature and prevalence of select online risks encountered by children across European countries. Through illustrative case studies, the guide offers practical tips for anyone seeking to help children who encounter online risks. A unique feature of the guide is the showcasing of hands-on expertise of practitioners who respond to child online risk and safety problems through the Safer Internet Centre’s Insafe Helpline assessment platform.
It builds on previous work that classifies known and emerging online risks for children and aims to increase risk awareness and encourage the use of tools and available services. Drawing on research and practitioner expertise, the guide demonstrates how online risks are classified, what steps children, carers, educators and safer internet centres (SICs) can take to mitigate the harms, and how good practices can be disseminated to reach as many users as possible.
The guide provides:
- An overview of the nature and prevalence of online risks encountered by children in Europe, classified according to the 4Cs of content, contact, conduct and contract risks.
- An in-depth examination of four case study risks: potentially harmful content online (a content risk); online sexual coercion and exploitation of children (a contact risk); online reputation (a conduct risk); e-crime (a contract risk).
- A definition of the selected risks, information on prevalence and key issues, helpline case studies, and resources for more guidance on the topic are provided with each case study.
This resource is informed by children’s views, empirical research by EU Kids Online and others, and the experiences of practitioners who respond to child online risk and safety problems through the Insafe Helpline assessment platform and case repository. The data presented in this guide show that it is important to bear in mind that not all children experience risk to the same degree, nor are they affected in the same way. As the results from the EU Kids Online network indicate, socio-demographic factors (such as age, gender and nationality) make a difference when it comes to encountering risks.
Understanding risk requires an acknowledgement that what is defined as a possible risk to one child might be an opportunity for another. In the case studies presented in this guide, the focus is on negative experiences, specifically. Good practices are then suggested to help with offering a constructive response.
The question of which strategies work best is difficult to answer. While there is no easy one-size-fits-all solution, the case studies and resources presented in this guide are a starting point. Across Europe, Safer Internet Centre helplines offer advice and support to young people on how to deal with harmful online content, contact, conduct and contracts. Dedicated call centres can be accessed by children, and helpline staff work in collaboration with parents, carers, schools and communities to equip children with the skills to not only confront digital risks, but also maximise online opportunities.
This text was originally published on the CO:RE blog and has been re-posted with permission. The post represents the views of the authors and not the position of the Parenting for a Digital Future blog, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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