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Ways to avoid problematic situations and negative experiences: Children’s preventive measures online


preventive measures online risks youngsters online safety online coping

Publication details

Year: 2014
DOI: 10.1515/commun-2014-0116
Issued: 2014
Language: English
Volume: 39
Issue: 3
Authors: Vandoninck S.; d’Haenens L.
Type: Journal article
Journal: Communications
Publisher: Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Topics: Internet usage, practices and engagement; Wellbeing; Online safety and policy regulation; Risks and harms
Sample: EU Kids Online held 113 individual interviews and 57 focus groups with children aged 9 to 16. In total, 374 children (187 boys and 187 girls) from nine different European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain, UK) participated


This article maps the various preventive measures 9 to 16-year-olds may take when confronted with problematic online situations, and it assesses how they differentiate preventive strategies based on online risk types. Boys and girls are compared and potential changes in preventive measures as they grow older are discussed. The reality of preventive measures is complex: Young people adopt different types of preventive measures depending on the perceived seriousness and potential harm of the risky situation at hand. Proactive problem-preventing measures are favored while support seeking is clearly a less common strategy in preventing unpleasant situations online. Cognitive strategies such as planning, strategizing and reflecting are also quite common among children’s intent on avoiding risky online experiences, and they can spur them on from mere awareness to concrete preventive action.


"Across all types of risks, the dominant preventive measure is proactive problem-preventing strategies (avoidance strategies tackling the potential stressor and finding an effective way to avoid the problem). This comes as no suprise since preventive measures are virtually always active. The intention to undertake preventive action is often based on stories and advice from others, whether or not in combination with previous, direct or indirect experiences. As children’s range of reactive coping strategies becomes more elaborate as they grow older, it is the oldest age group in our study (14- to 16-year-olds) that evidence the most thorough preventive behavior. As children grow older, online communication practices and activities on SNS are equally on the rise. Correspondingly, their proactive preventive behaviors towards risks related to SNS, online communication and meeting new people online become heightened. Although both boys and girls acknowledge the importance of changing privacy settings as a protection against disturbing incidents online, the results indicate that girls are more communicative in both preventive and reactive contexts. They are more likely to seek social support when faced with problematic situations. That is assumed to be because it is socially more acceptable for girls to show insecurity." (Vandoninck & d’Haenens, 2014, pp. 278-280)

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