Coronavirus: more online risks for children and more digital skills for parents to mitigate them

Children learning remotely report that they face negative online content, such as cyberbullying or exposure to inappropriate material, more often than before the pandemic, according to a Joint Research Centre (JRC) report, part of the ‘Kids’ Digital lives in COVID-19 Times (KiDiCoTi)’ project. The research is conducted by the JRC and supported by 26 research centres in 15 countries across Europe. Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “The safety of our children – online and offline – is a priority and a source of concern for us all. The study carried out by the Joint Research Centre helps us to understand better the risks posed to children online and to find improved ways to protect them. These factual findings are invaluable to our science-based policymaking, contributing to tackling issues with the appropriate solutions.” Some 21% of pupils experienced some sort of cyberbullying more often during the first lockdown in spring 2020; 28% reported having seen an increase in the same period of hate messages related to people of different race, religion, nationality or sexuality, while 29% had their personal data used online in a way they did not like. Active parental mediation, associated with the ‘scaffolding’ approach (where parents try to enable children to learn strategies to cope with digital risks by explanation and using the internet together), became much more popular overall; whereas gatekeeping tactics, such blocking of content, or keeping track of visited websites or apps, were employed more frequently during the lockdown. The insights from KiDiCoTi fed into the new EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child adopted today.