Internet, use and perception.

Study: “The internet, how children use it and what their parents think”

What do children really do on the internet and how many time do they spend online? What do they know about the risks of browsing the internet? Do parents really know what their children do online?

These were the questions asked by three researchers from the University of Malta in a study published in February 2015. It addresses not just the ways in which Maltese youngsters aged 8 to 15 use the internet, but also, and more importantly, what their parents know about their internet usage and the balance between these perceptions and reality.

The results: Maltese youngsters use the internet frequently and for a variety of uses, and their parents generally have limited knowledge of what their children are really doing.

When it comes to their digital capabilities, these children are often better than their parents think, but this is counteracted amongst certain children by an idealised perception of the internet and by a lack of awareness of the real risks; more than a quarter of young people thought that the internet was a safe place, and 15.7% still thought that there was no danger involved in meeting up with someone from the internet in real life.

The difficulty, of course, lies in communication between parents and children: the aim of ‘digital parenting’ is, in this case, to remedy the parents’ lack of understanding about what their children are really doing online, in order to be better able to guide them.