A new European study examining the risks in children using smartphones to access the internet is a warning for Australian parents.
Professor Lelia Green from the School of Communications and Arts is a co-author of the EU Kids Online report Online on the Mobile: Internet use on smartphones and associated risks among youth in Europe.
This research is important for Australia as there is no up-to-date data available about Australian children’s experiences. However, earlier studies have shown that a greater proportion of Australian kids are using smartphones than their European counterparts.
Professor Green said there has been a dramatic increase in European children aged between nine and 16 using the internet on smartphones.
“Four years ago only 12 per cent of European children aged nine to 16 had access to a smart handheld device. Now, over 60 per cent of 13 – 16 year-olds and 28 per cent of children aged nine to 12 are connecting to the internet via smartphones,” Professor Green said.
“Our research looked at whether accessing the internet this way exposed children to more risk or harm.”
Smartphones not just for rich kids
Professor Green said historically children using smartphones came from richer, more privileged backgrounds.
“But now most 13 to 16 year-olds have smartphones. Along with being exposed to extra risk, children with smartphones access the internet more often and engage in a greater range of activities,” she said.
Parents be vigilant
While younger European children are less likely than older children to encounter online risks, Professor Green said they are more likely to be affected by the risks they experience.
“Parents of younger children with smartphones should actively regulate their child’s internet use. The younger the child, the more their parents should involve themselves,” she said.
“Children’s risk varies with gender and age. However, smart media introduces new risks to children such as geo-locational data and apps which connect mobile users with strangers.”
More and more
Professor Green said EU Kids Online researchers have shown that opportunity for kids to connect online and their exposure to risk go hand in hand.
“Children connecting to the internet via mobile devices have more access, more often, using more devices, with more risk,” she said.
Professor Green urges software developers, technology companies and service providers to prioritise the development of a suite of consistent easy-to-use handset controls which parents can use to support and monitor their children’s safe mobile internet use.
Information about the project and survey:
· Professor Lelia Green of ECU’s School of Communications and Arts leads the Australian partner research. She serves on the EU Kids Online International Advisory Panel and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
· Australian partner research referenced in Figure 1 gratefully acknowledges the use of EU Kids Online materials and processes. Their project was funded by the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation and supported by Edith Cowan University.
· The EU Kids Online project aims to enhance knowledge of European children’s and parents’ experiences and practices regarding risky and safer use of the internet and new online technologies, and thereby to inform the promotion of a safer online environment for children. The project is funded by the EC Safer Internet Programme (SI-2010-TN-4201001).
· This report uses the findings from EU Kids Online II (2010-2011). Countries included are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK.
· It also references the Net Children Go Mobile project (2013-14). Countries included are: Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and the UK. Net Children Go Mobile is also funded by the EC Safer Internet Programme.
· For more findings, other reports and technical survey details please see www.eukidsonline.net.