‘Kids do not want to see porn online’

686315816Pretoria – Children should not be seen as victims but as agents actively taking part in the online world.

This is according to Ellen Helsper, a researcher at the London School of Economics, who has done extensive research on the risks and opportunities for European children online.

She was speaking on Wednesday at the Wits Internet Week event aimed at understanding the role of the internet in the present and future.

Helsper has conducted surveys among children and parents in 33 countries in Europe and said a more child-centred approach to the internet was needed when dealing with the online safety of children. “The internet is a world not designed by children. A rights-centred approach helps us think about framing the debate about children and their experiences online in terms of opportunities and risks,” she said.

“When we talk about regulation and children it is often based on protection coming from seeing children as victims and not agents who live in this world. A rights approach helps us to think about framing the debate about children and their experiences online in terms of opportunities, risks and participation online.

“It also allows us to think of children as agents with the right and ability to navigate the opportunities and gain resilience against risks.”

Helsper said it was impossible to create an internet environment that was risk-free for children. “We cannot create a world in which they do not run risks but also don’t get to take up the opportunities through participation. Or to run risks without gaining the resilience to deal with that world. We have to think of the positive and negative rights.”

Helsper’s survey found that last year, 20 percent of European children aged between 11 and 16 were more likely to be exposed to hate messages; 13 percent were exposed to pro-anorexia sites; 11 percent to self-harm sites and 12 percent to cyber bullying while online.

She said most of the children were exposed to uncomfortable content from trusted peers or sites they wanted to be a part of.

Pornography and violence were at the top of the list of the content that children did not want to see when online, she said.

Helsper said children whose parents were not passive were less likely to fall for the risks associated with internet use. “Active parenting created a safe environment to take risks and opportunities without being harmed. A more child-centred approach was needed. The digital space consists of opportunities and risks, these cannot be separated or isolated.”

Source: IOL News