Microsoft study shows teens are looking to parents for help with online issues

Microsoft's latest study, called "Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2018", shows an encouraging development in online safety. Indeed, there has been a stark increase in the numbers of teenagers turning to their parents and other trusted adults to solve online problems. 

The study was conducted on teenagers (13-17) in 22 countries about 21 online risks, falling into four categories:

  • Reputational – "Doxing" and damage to personal or professional reputations.
  • Behavioural – Being treated meanly; experiencing trolling, online harassment or bullying; encountering hate speech and micro-aggressions.
  • Sexual – Sending or receiving unwanted sext messages and making sexual solicitations; receiving unwanted sexual attention, and being a victim of sextortion or non-consensual pornography (aka "revenge porn").
  • Personal/Intrusive – Being the target of unwanted contact, experiencing discrimination, swatting, misogyny, exposure to extremist content/recruiting, or falling victim to hoaxes, scams or fraud.

The preliminary results show that:

  • 42 per cent of teenagers who encountered online issues said they asked their parents for help, compared to 10 per cent last year.
  • 28 per cent said they sought advice from another adult such as a teacher, coach or counsellor, compared to 9 per cent last year.

However, according to the study, teenage girls were more likely to ask for help from their parents and from other trusted adults, likely because life online in general is harder on girls than boys. Indeed, the data demonstrate that girls have a higher level of online risk exposure than boys; they suffer more consequences and "pain" from online ills, and the online risks and abuse that they experience are more emotionally charged. Moreover, as online risks have grown in severity — think "sextortion" and "swatting" — young people are perhaps more inclined to seek advice from the older generation.

The consequences of negative online experiences on young people are harsh. Commenting on the report, Dr Sharon Cooper, a US-based paediatrician working on cyber-victimisation, talked about chronic anxiety, depression, rational paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

This study is part of Microsoft's Digital Civility Challenge, which strives to encourage people to respect four basic principles of online civility. Complete and final results will be made available on 5 February 2019, to mark Safer Internet Day.

This article is an abstract from a recent Microsoft blog article and is reproduced here with permission. Read the full article on the "Microsoft on the issues" blog.

See Microsoft's Safer Internet Day Supporter profile page also, or see further information on Safer Internet Day more generally.

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