SID 2018 in Norway: Adults need to involve themselves in kids' online lives

  • Awareness
  • 11/03/2018
  • Norwegian Safer Internet Centre

Safer Internet Day (SID) was celebrated on Tuesday, 6 February 2018 right across the globe. Read on to find out more about new research shared by the Norwegian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) on the occasion of SID on the topic of children and media.

Many children and youngsters have unfortunate or uncomfortable experiences online. Yet, according to the new Children and Media survey from the Norwegian Media Authority, only half of 9-18 year olds tells someone about it. Children and youngsters also feel that their parents show little interest in their online lives. Interest and dedication from parents is essential when creating openness and dialogue in the family regarding being online.
Most kids and youngsters spend a big part of their lives online. Their social lives have been partially digitised, for better or worse. They communicate, play, listen, read and learn online. But for some, the web is also a place where they experience bullying, threats, exclusion or pressure to do something they don't want to.
More boys are being bullied online
For the last 15 years, the Norwegian Media Authority has conducted a survey on children's and youngster's use of digital media, and unpleasant experiences is one of the areas covered. New findings from the 2018 survey shows that a total of 28 per cent of kids between 9 and 18 have experienced someone bullying them, or being unpleasant or mean to them, online. Eight per cent have experienced this on a weekly or monthly basis.
Unsurprisingly, a larger number of the older kids surveyed experience negativity online. 4 out of 10 boys between 15 and 16 say that they have been bullied online. Among girls the same age, the number is somewhat lower; 3 out of 10. More boys than girls report about unpleasant experiences more frequently: out of boys ages 15 to 18, 16-19 per cent say someone is mean to them online on a monthly basis or more often. For girls the same age, only two to nine per cent answer yes to the same question. 
A higher number of boys say they have unpleasant experiences online now than two years ago. The most obvious tendency is among boys from the age of 15 and up; in 2016, ten per cent said they experienced others being mean or bullying them online on a monthly basis. In 2018, this number has increased to 15 per cent.
Boys are most prone to bullying and threats in all the age groups between 9 and 18. Girls, on the other hand, are most prone to being excluded online. This indicates gender differences in behaviour, and it appears that more boys experience direct bullying, while girls experience a more subtle form of negativity through being excluded from chats, groups or other online activities.
Half of those who have negative experiences don't tell anyone about it
Everyone who experiences unpleasant or negative things online should have someone to talk to or report to, but close to half of those who have such experiences report that they never tell someone about it. Among boys the numbers are even higher. Those who did talk to someone, mostly do so to parents and friends. Other professional adults, such as school nurses, teachers or others, are hardly ever approached. It is of course natural for children to be closest to, and approach, their parents first and foremost when wanting to share something difficult or unpleasant - and in the parent survey the parents also reflect the same numbers; 92 per cent of the parents asked say that "parents have the biggest responsibility when it comes to protecting children and youngsters in their media use".
Parents need to care
If parents are going to take on this task, it is important that parents pay attention to children's digital activities and have the ability to be good role models and active advisors for their kids. It should be just as natural to ask your kids about how their online day was, as it is to ask about soccer practice. But, this is not the case in many homes, and certainly not according to kids and youngsters themselves. In the survey, 71 per cent of 9 to 18 year olds report that their parents are more interested in other types of leisure activities, and only 26 per cent said that their parents are interested in their online and social media activities. Parents' interest also declines as their children get older. Especially after 13, a lot of youngsters say they feel that their parents are not paying attention or showing interest. This is a critical age where young people need their parents and other adults to be approachable and available.
Talk to your children!
Many parents might find it difficult to keep up with their kids' online lives. But this is absolutely vital - both for parents to be able to talk to their children, and for them to be able to give advice when they need it. Who wants to talk to mom or dad if they are not updated or interested?
Our advice to parents is to get yourselves an overview of what's most popular at the time and talk to your own children; ask questions! What games and social media do you use? What age limits apply? Who do you talk to online? Do you change your password often? Do you ask your friends before sharing pictures of them? What's ok to say to others online - and how do you react if someone treats you bad?
Creating an environment where kids find it safe and comfortable to talk to their parents is crucial, both to prevent problems - and to increase trust between children and parents.
Professional adults need to step up
In addition to parents getting more involved, we need teachers, school nurses, police and other helplines and organisations to become more involved and available to kids and youngsters. They need to discuss their own role and presence in their work with children and media. Why is it that so few kids use and approach professional adults and services? Are these services not known among kids? Do they not trust them to be helpful? Is it a question of knowledge or trust - or both?
The Norwegian Media Authority wants adults to take the responsibility that is theirs. Children are not supposed to be alone or without council when they face challenges online. We need to be more involved, both in preventative work and in situations where something negative has happened. Interest, presence, awareness and knowledge are vital components to be able to be the helpers and responsible adults that kids need us to be in a complex and demanding media-driven society.
An abstract from the full report is available on the Norwegian Media Authority website (in Norwegian); the full report will be published later in the year.
See the Norwegian Safer Internet Day profile page for further information on SID activities.
Find out more about the work of the Norwegian Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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