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Parents underestimate kids’ online experience

Children have growing – and often worrisome – access to the Internet

Half the nine- to 16-year-olds in Switzerland have been exposed via the Internet to sex pictures, depictions of violence, or cyber bullying, or have had contact with strangers, according to a study by the University of Zurich.

Parents in Switzerland are to a great extent unaware of the potential dangers which their children are exposed to online, the study, which was released Friday, found. 

“The number of nine-to-16-year-olds who have already experienced one of the investigated risks is substantial,” said media researcher Martin Hermida, who coordinated the survey. Based on extrapolation, he estimated that 338,000 children in Switzerland are affected.

One thousand children in Switzerland participated in the international study – EU Kids Online III. It was the first time Switzerland took part in the research, which evaluated the Internet experience of children in 33 European countries.

Cyber bullying

Swiss results showed that 40 per cent of parents incorrectly believe that their children have never been exposed to sex pictures or videos via the Internet. And only 45 per cent of the parents of bullying victims knew that their child or teenager was mobbed via the Internet.

In the case of male victims of cyber bullying, a whopping 81 per cent of parents were unaware. A 2012 study conducted by Pro Juventute found that one in five teenagers had been bullied online.

The EU Kids Online study found that 25 per cent of children surveyed had had virtual contact with a stranger, and 7 per cent had had an actual meeting with a person whom they had gotten to know via the Internet. The percentage of males who had met a stranger in person (43 per cent) was roughly double the percentage of females (22 per cent).

Only 16 per cent of children informed their parents about meetings they had had with Internet acquaintances. Sixty-eight per cent of parents assumed that their children had never met with people they had been introduced to via the Internet.

The study was financially supported by the national Youth and Media programme, which also produces a German-language booklet with tips for parents, by the Swiss National Science Foundation and by the Federal Social Insurance Office.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR