Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kids Handle Internet Threats Better Than Grownups Think

One thing that really irritates me is the media picture of kids as naïve victims of threats on the Internet. The media debate, at least here in Sweden, seems to display consensus regarding what threats the Internet poses to young people. It’s all about “adult sexual predators”, or whatever.
When I hear my daughter talking to her friends about Messenger, text messaging and chat rooms, I don’t recognize it. To me the media debate is about grownups, that hardly ever have tried Messenger, let alone Facebook or MySpace, discussing what they think kids are doing on the net. They simply don’t have a clue. I bet no one have ever asked their own kids about their opinion.
My gut feeling has been confirmed. A new study from Umeå University shows that children’s views of the Internet in many ways differ from the media related adult view. They are not anxious about the negative sides of the Internet. They are aware of and can describe many downsides, but these are not present in their everyday use of the Internet. Many children have in fact well-developed counter strategies.
Simply put: they are responsible young citizens, who are aware of the threats that exist in their online setting – sometimes from personal experience – and have developed methods to avoid such threats.
(Dunkels, Elza (2007). Bridging the distance: children’s strategies on the internet. (2007-09-26). The method used in the thesis is one-to-one online interviews and the analyses are qualitative in nature. The sample is children in grade 6 of the Swedish compulsory school, aged between 11 and 13. 104 children, 52 girls and 52 boys, from different parts of Sweden were interviewed.)


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