The public organization CyberSafeKids Ireland has been investigating cybercrimes against children and ensuring the safety of minors in the global network for twenty years. Experts presented the results of a large-scale study that assessed changes in children’s Internet activity during a pandemic.
The study was conducted on the basis of detailed surveys, in which about 4 thousand schoolchildren of 8-12 years old in Ireland took part. In particular, experts studied the factors that could potentially create a dangerous situation for a child, primarily online communication with strangers. It turned out that 36% of participants regularly play online games with strangers. This is 16% more than in 2019, which clearly indicates the growing popularity of online entertainment during the pandemic, experts say.
In addition, 93% of children have their own smartphones, and 84% actively use social networks, despite the age limit 13+. The most popular were YouTube (74%), TikTok (47%), WhatsApp (39%) and Snapchat (37%).
CyberSafeKids experts note that due to the pandemic, digital technologies have become central in the lives of adolescents, and parental control over the activity of children on the Internet is weakening. About 30% of the study participants reported that they can go online whenever they want, and 13% admitted that there are no rules and restrictions on the use of smartphones and computers in their home.
The researchers also asked if teens had to hide from their parents the fact of viewing any content, and 22% of the participants answered in the affirmative. Another quarter of respondents reported that they periodically come across content that upsets and scares them, but only half (54%) decided to talk about it with adults.
Another 30% of adolescents stated that they prefer to keep to themselves any negative experiences in connection with their activity on the Internet. The researchers stressed that this is very alarming data – before the pandemic, only 20% of children refused to share such information with adults.
“It is important to remember that the online environment is not always safe and suitable for children. It is very difficult to convince a child not to communicate with strangers on the Internet, since game developers often encourage this practice, ”CyberSafeKids experts warn.