NSPCC publish report into young people’s use of online services

14 Sep 2017 Becca Cawthorne

The NSPCC Net Aware Report 2017: “Freedom to express myself safely” aims to provide a snapshot of young people’s online lives. 

Using data from the NSPCC and O2’s 2017 Net Aware research with 1,696 11-18 year olds, this report seeks to amplify the voices of children and young people – exploring what they like about the online space, as well as highlighting the factors that prevent them from using it safely.

Positive experiences

Young people are motivated by enjoyment in their exploration of the online space. They value opportunities for:

  • Fun

Respondents are enthusiastic about the potential for fun and enjoyment online; this includes sharing funny videos, posting photos and playing games.

A 13 year old boy said about Facebook:

“It’s good to see trends and to share things you like [and] find funny [things], how your friends, tag people in things they might be involved in or like, and it’s easy to talk to your friends”

  • Communication

The social opportunities provided by the internet serve a range of purposes for respondents including keeping in touch with friends and family, school work and employment advice, and building communities and social groups.

A 13 year old girl said about FaceTime:

“[I like] getting to speak to others face to face who aren’t currently with you, I love [to] FaceTime my family in New York and Australia”  

  • Self-expression, self-representation and creativity

Scope for self-expression is found in the imaginative nature of games, the potential for exploration and freedom, and the creative functionality of some platforms.

A 12 year old boy said:

“It’s fun, because you can create a world of imagination”

  • Online autonomy

Young people feel empowered when sites offer effective tools to keep them safe online. They praise robust privacy settings, and effective reporting and blocking mechanisms.

A 13 year old girl said:

“The things I like about WhatsApp is that I can add people ONLY from my contacts and if any random people contact me I can easily block them”

Negative experiences

The research also found that these positive experiences are often tainted by negative ones – one in four (997 out of 3,975) reviews stated that the platform being reviewed was risky. This was across all sites included in the research. The primary risks identified were:

  • Inappropriate content: This is particularly prevalent on sites and apps with live streaming functionality
  • Violence and hatred: One in three (1,194 out of 3,975) young people’s reviews reported seeing violent and hateful content. This may be in user-generated content, footage from the news or fictional violence in games.
  • Sexual content and behaviour: One in five (815 out of 3,975) young people’s reviews reported seeing sexual content including accidentally finding it, being sent sexual messages, or being encouraged to share sexual content themselves.
  • Bullying: Just under one in five (772 out of 3,975) young people’s reviews reported seeing bullying. Some noted bullying within a social group, while others indicated that the opportunity to be anonymous on some platforms was facilitating bullying behaviour.

The research also found that over a third of respondents (615 out of 1,696) had added someone online that they did not know in the last six months and nearly a quarter  (385 out of 1,696) said they were likely or very likely to add someone they did not know online in the future.

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