New study in Estonia: 1 in 4 children have experienced a threat to their privacy on the internet

According to a study conducted by Telia and Norstat in October-November 2022 about the online privacy of children and young people, half of Estonian children are most concerned about having their passwords stolen and having pictures and videos shared of them without their consent.

Date 2023-06-28 Author Estonian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness, research Topic data privacy, e-crime Audience media specialist, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals
A group of three children on a sofa looknig and a smartphone and a tablet

The study concludes that most children have encountered something negative on the internet. Only a third of them have not experienced anything bad. Through this study, we have once again received confirmation that children are still one of the most vulnerable groups in the online world. 

Unfortunately, the main differences between boys’ and girls’ answers regard very serious topics: harassment, stalking and sending images and messages with sexual content, which girls experience more than boys. Compared to girls, more boys have encountered theft of accounts and items earned in a gaming environment. 

As a positive note, the study revealed that when something bad has happened, advice and help is sought from a parent, and most have received help. However, the fact that the questionnaire reached the child through a parent should also be taken into account, as it may indicate that the sample included those families and children whose parents have already established a good relationship with their children on the topic of internet issues. Participation in the study was voluntary and anonymous. 

Here are highlighted the most important conclusions and observations from the study. 

1 in 4 children have experienced privacy infringements on the internet 

  • Most children (17 per cent of all respondents) are exposed to receiving rude, offensive or mean messages. 
  • 1 in 10 have fallen victim to the theft of a social media account or a game account. 
  • 1 in 10 say that they have been contacted by an unknown adult against their will. Among girls, 5 per cent more have encountered it than among boys. 
  • 1 in 10 have received unwanted images, videos or messages with sexual content. 

Most children are afraid of the dangers of the internet 

  • Only 14 per cent of respondents say they have no fear of the dangers of the internet.
  • They are most afraid of having their passwords stolen (43 per cent) and having pictures and videos of them shared without their consent (37 per cent).  
  • 30 per cent of the girls who answered feel more afraid of different situations, especially ones that concern stalking, tracking, having pictures or videos of them shared without consent and having their information collected without knowledge. 
  • For boys, the main fear is having their passwords stolen. Other fears are felt significantly less among boys compared to girls. 

1 in 4 children or young people have published personal information about themselves on the internet 

  • 4 in 10 children have published personal information about themselves on the internet. They mainly share their age, interests, hobbies, hometown and first and last names to a lesser extent. 
  • The older age group (12–16 years old) and Russian-speaking children have published significantly more information about themselves than younger and Estonian-speaking children. 

Most children have used at least one measure to protect their privacy 

  • Most children and young people believe they use at least one measure to protect their privacy online. They mainly refrain from sharing their contact or other personal information. 
  • Just under half (46 per cent) confirm that they do not share or post other people's data without asking permission. 
  • The older age group and Estonian-speaking children have used various measures to protect their privacy. 

Parents are mainly asked for help regarding internet threats, and official channels are rarely used 

  • Almost all of the children and young people who participated in the study have asked for help regarding internet threats and have mostly received it. 
  • Help is mainly asked from parents, but also from other family members. Other channels are used significantly less. 
  • The percentage of children and young people who searched for information on the internet themselves, contacted customer service or reported an incident through a game or platform is low. 

About the study 

Norstat Eesti AS conducted the online panel study in October-November 2022, commissioned by Telia. A total of 400 children and young people between the ages of 7 to 16 responded to the study, 73 per cent of whom spoke Estonian, and 28 per cent Russian. 51 per cent of the respondents were boys, and 49 per cent were girls. 

Find more information about the work of the Estonian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.    

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