A recent Global Kids Online network meeting gathered 45 experts and practitioners from 27 countries to discuss the advancement of child rights and online protection drawing on existing and new research evidence by the network partners. We are following up with a webinar on impact and the lessons learned on how to use the evidence to build global understanding and action (Tuesday 23rd July, registration open).

We began the meeting with a discussion of a new Global Kids Online Comparative Report drawing on data from 11 countries and nearly 15,000 child participants aged 9-17 who were surveyed between 2016-2018 together with one of their parents or carers. To be launched in November, the report focuses on country comparisons related to children’s internet access, online activities, digital skills, online risks, and parental mediation and support. It aims to answer some of the key questions we have about when and how use of the internet (and associated online, digital and networked technologies) contributes positively to children’s lives and when it is problematic. Alongside this publication, Kids Online Latin America and EU Kids Online will also launch their comparative reports – providing a lot of evidence on the digital environment for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Throughout the meeting, we heard in depth accounts of children’s growing access to and use of the internet in selected countries, continuing a tradition begun in earlier conferences. This time we heard from David Gvineria about the findings from Albania, from Joyce Odame about Ghana, from Neil Melhuish and Edgar Pacheco about New Zealand, from Marj Ardivilla about the Philippines, and from Cecilia Hughes and Matías Dodel about Uruguay. We also welcomed newly joined partners from Canada (Valerie Steeves), China (Wenying Su), India (Manisha Shelat), and Peru (Elsie Finseth Leon and Laura Leon). One key theme throughout our research is the importance of what children understand, and what they need to understand, about the changing digital environment. We had a lively discussion about the UNESCO and UNICEF approaches to digital literacy, raising the possibility of a common approach that can be promoted internationally.

As well as global developments, there is lots of further national and regional work ongoing. We heard from Jelena Perovic about a teachers’ survey in Montenegro, from Patrick Burton and Monica Bulger about social media use in four East-Asia Pacific countries, and from Alejandra Trossero about social media and mental health issues in Latin America. Each new study extends our knowledge base and will enable the child rights community in its work going forward.

Turning from lower to higher income countries, the EU Kids Online network has been in the field again, with new data collection to update its 2010 story, and a new comparative report is planned for the autumn, as Elisabeth Staksrud explained. EU Kids Online has also developed new survey modules to recognise emerging challenges – on hate speech, health, privacy and internet of things, and digital citizenship.

What impact does all this research have?

We had a session organised by Sarah Morton and Kerry Albright to consider who we wish to impact, by what process, and with what outcomes. Sarah Morton presented an early draft of an independent Global Kids Online evaluation study carried out by Matter of Focus. The findings were then presented at a webinar in July 2019 (watch the video). Following the network meeting and to advance the GKO effort, the partners will prioritise working on the reports and publications, building research capacity and planning impact, engaging stakeholders, and staying in touch with the network.

Online child protection will be the focus of some of our forthcoming work, including the project Disrupting Harm: evidence to understand online child sexual exploitation and abuse funded by the Fund to End Violence against Children and implemented by UNICEF, ECPAT International and INTERPOL. Part of UNICEF’s work will build on the work of Global Kids Online and involve network members from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Western Sydney University, and other colleagues around the world.

Further materials

Hear Sonia Livingstone and Jasmina Byrne discuss online child protection and digital parenting.

Hear Charlotte Petri Gornitzka (Assistant Secretary-General and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Partnerships) on why the Global Kids Online evidence is important.

Post authors: Sonia Livingstone and Mariya Stoilova

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