Session B: The relationship between risk and harm

Wednesday 23 May, 15.50 - 17.30


Moderator: Maia Rusakova, Stellit International and ROBERT

David Finkelhor
Crimes against Children Research Center
Family Research Laboratory
Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire

7 Contrarian Hypotheses about youth internet risk and safety  [PDF]


There is a great deal of anxiety about the Internet’s negative impact on youth risk and safety, so it is useful to consider some contrarian hypothesis that are worthy of investigation.

1. Youth engage in no more (and maybe less) online risk taking than adults.

                Some data suggest more sexting, meeting unknown people and more negative online experiences among adults than among young people.

2. The Internet has protected young people from sexual assault.

Sexual assault has declined dramatically in the US during the period the Internet has been increasingly occupying young people. Some changes in sexual risk taking connected to electronic media might explain this.

3. The Internet has helped reduce delinquency

                The Internet has reduced the problem of youth boredom, alienation and marginalization which is the source of so much delinquency. Rates of delinquency have been going down.

4. The Internet may have helped law enforcement more than it helped criminals

                It has allowed law enforcement to identify, capture and prosecute thousands of offenders and potential offenders who might not have otherwise been identified.

5. Child abuse images may paradoxically benefit some victims

                They may allow offenders to be caught, and they may reduce the need for victims to testify. These could be net benefits for victims.

6. Much of the educational messaging about Internet safety may be ineffective.

                The Internet safety messages lack the basic criteria that have characterized successful earlier prevention education campaigns.

7. We may look back on many of our current concerns and think they were silly.

                Many of the anxieties about new technologies in the past – cars, telephones, contraception -- look silly from today’s perspective; why would the Internet be different.

                The paper will suggest empirical strategies for exploring some of these hypotheses.

Uwe Hasebrink
Professor, Dr. Member of the EU Kids Online Network
Claudia Lampert
Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research

From online practices to risk, from risk to harm: evidence from the EU Kids Online network [PDF]

The proposed paper summarises findings based on the EU Kids Online survey. In summer 2010 the network has completed a unique survey of 25,000 children aged 9-16, based on in-home, face-to-face interviews of a random stratified sample of 1,000 children in each of 25 countries across Europe. This network, coordinated by Sonia Livingstone (LSE) and co-funded by the European Commission through the Safer Internet Plus programme, can be regarded as a kind of complement to the ROBERT project: With its broad – in terms of the countries involved, the sample size, and the range of questions – approach the EU Kids Online study rather provides the big overview of children’s online practices and the opportunities and risks the encounter, it may serve as a kind of baseline for other studies, like ROBERT, that focus on specific risks like sexual abuse and sexual exploitation and can provide more in-depth and qualitative insights in coping strategies and resilience.


Given the thematic focus of the ROBERT conference we propose to present findings on the following issues: Which patterns of online usage can be observed throughout Europe? How are they related to indicators of online literacy? What is the prevalence of certain risk experiences, particularly seeing sexual images, sending/receiving sexual messages, bullying/being bullied, and meeting new people? What are the psychological and social factors leading to more or less risk experience? How is risk linked with harm? What are the psychological and social factors leading to more or less harm experience? Which strategies of parental mediation are linked with higher or lower levels of risk and harm?


In a final step we will discuss the differences between European countries with respect to children’s online practices and experiences of risk and harm and to what extent these differences should lead to different recommendations regarding internet safety.


Linda Jonsson
Linköping University

Online I am someone else... Young women with experiences of selling sex online [PDF]


This presentation is based on a recent interview study with 11 young women (15-25 years old) and their experiences of selling sex online while under the age of 18. More specifically, the significance of the Internet and Mobile phone in the process of selling sex was explored, but also the process of establishing contacts online. Moreover, the young person’s life situation and description of possible reasons for selling sex was investigated.

The 11 informants described the Internet and mobile phone as important when getting in contact with the buyers, but also as an arena for selling sex (e.g. webcam sex and pictures/films). The informants reported of different ways of getting in contact with the buyers and different degrees of own activity, from being contacted on a youth community to advertising on a website for prostitutes. Frequent themes in the interviews were the informants worry regarding the existence of sexual images and films but also abusive situation when films and pictures were taken.

The informants described feelings of self-contempt and selling of sex as way of handling anxiety. Another common theme was the experiences of sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences.

Olga Kolpakova
Alexandra Lyubimova
Olga Levina
NGO Stellit International

Understanding risky online behaviour of 14 - 17 years old Russian children (St Petersburg and Leningrad region sample) [PDF]

In 2010 – 2011 with the support from NGO “Soprotivlenie” (grant No.300-rp, according to the instruction of President of Russian Federation, May 8, 2010) and NGO “Vriema Git” NGO Stellit has initiated the study aimed to characterize the influence of ICT on the daily life of 14-17 years old children. One of the components of the study was offline survey among 14-17 years old children who study in different types of educational institutions (schools, vocational schools, and universities) in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region (N=1000).

The study has shown in particular that there is a significant number of children who practice risky online behavior and actively create situations which could be potentially harmful for them. Thus, at least once during last 12 months 63,9% of respondents added to their friends list in social networks or address book people whom they never met in real life, 61,8% were looking for a new friends online, 42,2% sent personal contact details (address, telephone number) and 37,6% sent photos and videos containing images of themselves to people whom they never met in real life. More then half of respondents (52,3%) have ever dated someone whom they initially met online. Median number of acquaintances from the Internet met in real life was four. Most frequent negative outcomes from real life meetings were the following: false age of new acquaintance (7,5%), verbal abusive behavior of the new acquaintance (4,8%), and even sexual harassment (2,7%).

In the presentation we would like to compare groups of children who practice risky behavior online and children who stay safe online. Using T-test, χ2 test and OR we will check if there are any significant differences in their gender, age, level of income, the size of the city where they live, type of family, number of siblings, satisfaction with relationships with friends, type of educational institution, progress in school, characteristics of parental control over their Internet use and experience of discussions on Internet safety issues with parents and/or teachers.