One in three children run into disturbing content online

15/11/2011 22:22

NILOOFAR VEISZADEH is only eight but she uses the internet every day, accessing a range of sites from her own laptop. Ahh, the new electronic babysitter

The year 3 student uses the internet for everything from researching her school work (Eight right? remember Boooooks, and the library? Unbeknownst to me have they started teaching quantum physics at kindy??) to finding recipes to making homemade play dough and catching up on television shows she missed while at school. 

Niloofar’s internet use is not unique. Australian children are, on average, not even eight when they first use the internet, making them among the world’s youngest and most prolific online users, a new study of 26 countries reveals. The study, AU Kids Online, compared the experience of Australian children to European children and found Australians were more than twice as likely to say they were bothered by something online. The study’s lead author, Leila Green, said online experiences that bothered them included being bullied, seeing sexual images and potentially harmful user-generated content such as hate and anorexia support sites. (Things that bother adults as well, but let’s give them a direct digital conduit at the age of eight onwards. It used to be that the THE discussion, you know “Where did I come from” occurred at the onset of puberty. Biology simple.  Now it’s existential angst, Why are you having to explain to eight year olds, what those people are doing naked, why are those people so thin, will I get that sick and die, why do those people say they hate those other people because they are a different (religion/colour/culture/economic group) and want them dead?  

”However, 30 per cent of Australian children reported encountering something online that upset or bothered them – 2½ times the European average,” she said.

The top activities for using the internet were schoolwork (86 per cent)….(YEH RIGHT  — Researcher: What would you primarily use the internet for, A. Homework? B. Games? C. Accessing disturbing websites? Child: Homework, definitely homework!!,….watching video clips, playing games, emailing and social networking, the study found. Qualitative /quantitative methodology? Statistics are such great things.

Niloofar’s mother, Ailsa, said she set rules for internet use but does not have a parental lock on Niloofar’s laptop. ”She would be on the internet every single day but only for about 40 minutes and we set the parameters at the beginning … she only uses her laptop out in the open and we have had chats when she has looked at content that she knows she shouldn’t,” Ms Veiszadeh said (How strange is that? Children being curious? Especially about things they are told specifically they shouldn’t look at?)


Tess Michaels