Over the past year, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti and the London School of Economics have been coordinating new research on children’s use of digital technology. With more partners joining the Global Kids Online network, we have collaborated with UNICEF country offices, the EU Kids Online network, and research partners in ten countries across the globe: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Ghana, Montenegro, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and Uruguay. Working jointly, we aimed to understand when and how the use of the internet contribute positively to children’s lives – providing opportunities to benefit in diverse ways that contribute to their well-being, as well as when and how the use of the internet is problematic in children’s lives – amplifying the risk of harm that undermines their well-being if they are unprotected.
Each country-project produces evidence that is used to inform national and international policy and legislation around digital technologies, with a focus on safeguarding children’s rights. Key findings include:
- Most children access the internet at home (between 62% in the Philippines and 98% in Argentina and Bulgaria);
- Much fewer children have school internet access – as little as 1 in 5 in Serbia and a third in Brazil, with Argentina having the highest rates (63%).
- Internet access is becoming more personal and private as the mobile phone is the most popular device to get online in all countries – used by between 61% (in the Philippines) and 91% (Brazil) of children.
- Most children say that they learn something by searching online – between 56% in the Philippines and 94% in Argentina.
- Visiting social network sites, watching video clips, and playing online ages are amongst the most popular activities children engage in. Civic participation opportunities are used much less.
- While most children know how to share or create online content, they are less confident in judging the reliability of online information.
- The exposure to different online risks varies substantially by country but also by children’s age, making digital competencies and skills and important factor in balancing online risks and opportunities.
- Children turn for help to their friends and parents when they are upset by something online.
Note: 9-17 year olds in all countries except 13-17 year olds in Argentina. Also, samples in Serbia and the Philippines were small pilot surveys; in South Africa a convenience sample was used; in all other countries, the sample is nationally representative. For more methodological details, see www.globalkidsonline.net/results
Collecting comparable data across countries
Currently, Global Kids Online has surveyed over 12,000 children and 8,000 of their carers, marking one of the most comprehensive efforts to explore children’s and parents’ engagement with digital technology worldwide. The data collected is comparable across countries and has already been used to inform our advocacy efforts and reports on national and global levels. Over the past year, we discussed the newest findings and research challenges and our work was showcased in UNICEF’s annual report State of the World’s Children: Children in a digital world:
- Make the digital world safer for children (State of the World’s Children 2017)
- Brazil: 24.3 million children are now online
- Bulgaria: Are children empowered to benefit from the internet?
- Chile: a third of children do not use the internet at school
- EU Kids Online is conducting a new survey in Europe
- Challenges during the fieldwork in the Philippines
- Global Kids Online fieldwork in Uruguay has started
- Live online conversation about the challenges of our research
Joining efforts to support the development of effective policy and child rights solutions
Global Kids Online has been attracting considerable interest from governments, industry, and NGOs. While country-level research projects continue to work towards informing national policy and practice, this year the network joined efforts to work together on maximising knowledge exchange and impact. The partners discussed research dissemination challenges, shared local experiences of working effectively with stakeholders, and planned pathways towards achieving both engagement and impact with the research. We highlight our joint strategies and country priorities:
- Working on knowledge exchange and impact
- Excellent support from key stakeholders in Ghana
- Impact work in Bulgaria: using evidence to promote digital literacy
- South Africa: using evidence to influence policy
The multi-method research toolkit
The Global Kids Online multi-method research toolkit was launched in November 2016 but over the past year, we worked on developing an Impact tool which draws on the experience and best practice of country partners and experts. It is designed to provide guidance and ideas relevant to all stages of the research life-cycle and to help researchers plan and monitor effective knowledge exchange and impact strategies and activities.
The road ahead
At a recent webinar Children in a Digital World – Informing Policy with the Latest Research, members of the Global Kids Online network discussed the key priorities of using the evidence base to inform effective policy and practice solutions. Moving forward in 2018, the prospects look exciting as well: the network is growing with a number of new countries, including Albania, Canada, China, India, and New Zealand. UNICEF Office of Research and LSE will be developing a fieldwork training manual to support the preparation of future research teams, and the network will continue its joint efforts to support effective children’s rights policies and contribute to children’s well-being in a digital world.
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Post author: Mariya Stoilova