Children appreciate the internet and are aware of online risks

The first findings from the Children’s Advisory Panel was presented by Henriette Wendt, Head of Corporate Development, Telia Company, at the Global Child Forum in Stockholm on 7December. Children are happy internet users, and embrace online opportunities. They are also well aware of the risks connected to an online presence.

The Children’s Advisory Panel to Telia on Online Life is a qualitative research initiative that listens to children’s thoughts about their online experiences. During the fall Telia Company has partnered with schools and NGOs in all the seven Nordics and Baltics countries where the company has operations. Students in 6th and 9th grade classes in two or three schools in each country participated in workshops where they discussed online issues. All together 700 children have participated and the initial findings show some patterns.

Henriette Wendt, Head of Corporate Development, Telia Company, says: “The children in our panel are in general enthusiastic and optimistic about an online presence. We tend to focus on the negative aspects of the internet when we discuss young people’s online presence, but in the workshops they emphasize possibilities and opportunities. They really have a mind-set of everything is possible.”

The children in the panel mention the possibility to make friends online, to familiarize with other cultures and other people’s perspectives as well as the fact that the internet creates opportunities on equal terms.

Even if children are positive to online activities, they are aware of risks.  A recurring concern is about the reliability and trustworthiness of online content.

“It is striking that children to a great extent are concerned with fake online identities. Children are especially vulnerable to being subjected to people with online fake identities,” says Wendt.

Children are also concerned about the trustworthiness of different sources of information. They are well aware of the risks and can see consequences of bad information. During the workshops children made statements like “If you have the wrong information you might make a bad decision”.

“To have access to reliable and trustworthy information is important for all of us. In this area children expect guidance from adults, and they expect us to moderate and facilitate an online presence, for example to support a process to make the internet reliable and the dialogue more respectful“, says Wendt.

The full result from the panels will now be further analysed and published.

“We want to use this for further policy discussions in the society, to back up ICT industry initiatives, and to ensure an even better approach from us concerning children’s online activities,” says Wendt.

One third of all internet users in the world are children, and nowadays it is a common view that the internet enriches children’s lives and provides them with opportunities to improve their digital skills as well as to socialize, play and to learn. However, children are particularly vulnerable to online threats and keeping children safe online requires an integrated approach across the broader technology industry and society. Telia Company works actively together with experienced partners to promote a safer internet usage among children, young people and their parents.

Facts about the Children’s Advisory Panel
To better understand children’s own perspective of online and digital aspects of life, Telia Company partnered with child rights organizations and schools for a Children’s Advisory Panel (CAP) in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Selected partner schools hosted co-creation workshops where 6th and 9th grade students encountered a challenge related to real life and the internet, and worked together to come up with solutions. The workshops were conducted in cooperation with local child rights organizations for professional support on the children’s perspective. Roughly 700 children participated in school workshops and contributed with their ideas and knowledge about children’s online life. In addition, more than 50 children were interviewed in more depth about their online experiences.

Through the CAP, Telia Company identifies qualitative opportunities and benefits of online activity for children and young people. The findings will be shared through reports, seminars and online discussions, to improve the approach to children’s rights as users of technology and to contribute to the industry and society’s understanding of children as online citizens.

Save the Children Finland and the market research company Kantar TNS in Finland have been main partners in developing the concept and workshop model and in analyzing the results.

In each market the local Telia Company has partnered with a local child rights organization for a local approach and implementation.

Partners per country:
Sweden – Friends
Finland – Save the Children
Norway – Save the Children
Denmark – Save the Children
Estonia – Lastekaitse Liit (Estonian Union for Child Welfare)
Latvia – Dross Internets (Latvian Safer Internet Centre)
Lithuania – Vaiku Linija (Lithuanian Child Line)  

The full result from the panels are now being further analysed and will be published during the beginning of 2017.