Children, risk and safety on the internet


Involved researchers: Leen d’Haenens & Sofie Vandonink

When exposure to online risks results in a negative experience, children respond in different ways to this feeling of being upset. This chapter investigates which children are more vulnerable, as they feel upset more intensively. While online bullying provokes most harm, children seem less bothered seeing sexual images (content risk). Younger children and those with little self-efficacy or psychological problems feel more intensively upset, and girls are more sensitive to sexual risks. The chapter also looks into children’s coping responses when they feel upset after exposure to online risks. We distinguish between fatalistic, communicative and proactive coping strategies. We conclude that children identified as more vulnerable are more likely to adopt a passive or fatalistic approach, while self-confident children seem to tackle the problem more proactively. Girls and younger children are more communicative. Children higher on the ladder of online opportunities will adopt more online proactive coping strategies such as deleting disturbing messages or blocking the sender. These results are an indication for a double jeopardy effect: children who experience difficulties offline seem to find it more difficult to cope with online risks.

Co-author is Katia Segers.

More information: “Children, risk and safety on the internet. Research and policy challenges in comparative perspective.” Edited by Sonia Livingstone, Leslie Haddon and Anke Görzig.


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