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Title: Ways to avoid problematic situations and negative experiences. Children’s preventive coping strategies online
Authors: Vandoninck, Sofie
Issue Date: Nov-2014
Conference: ECREA edition:5 location:Lisbon date:12-15 November 2014
Abstract: Young people acknowledge both opportunities and risks online: across Europe, 45% of the 9-16-year olds agrees that the internet has a lot of good things on offer for them, while 55% indicates that some things online are bothersome for children their age (Livingstone, Haddon, Görzig & Olafsson, 2011). This awareness about potentially problematic situations online motivates youngsters to think about ways to avoid negative experiences online and taking precautions (Parris, Varjas, Meyers & Cutts, 2012; Kowalski, Limber & Agatson 2008). Building on the frameworks for reactive coping, we explore how young people deal with problematic situations preventively.
Within the field of coping responses to stressful situations, scholars agree that the traditional dichotomous coping models of Lazarus & Folkman (1984) and Roth & Cohen (1986) do not correspond with reality, and that coping behavior is a more varied and complex phenomenon. Studies on young people’s reactive coping with unpleasant situations offline and online indicate that support seeking, problem-solving actions, avoiding the situation and acceptance are recurring strategies (Skinner & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2007; Parris et.al., 2012; Sleglova & Cerna, 2011). Most research on online coping focuses on the reactive side of coping. Nevertheless, there are some indications that youngsters also recur to preventive measures in online environments, such as avoiding certain websites or platform, increasing security measures or not disclosing certain types of personal information (Parris et al., 2012; Kowalski et al., 2008; Vandoninck, d’Haenens & Donoso, 2010).
The aim of this article is to map the different preventive measures among 9-16 year olds when confronted with problematic situations online, and to assess how young people differentiate preventive strategies according to the type of online risk. Furthermore, we will compare boys and girls, and examine how preventive measures change when children grow older. The qualitative EU Kids Online data collection will be used for this purpose. In Spring and Summer 2013, the EU Kids Online network organized 113 individual interviews and 57 focus groups with children aged 9 to 16. In total, 349 children from nine different European countries were invited to explain what they perceive as problematic or harmful online, and what they do to prevent these situations from happening. A template analysis approach is considered an appropriate method for analyzing these huge amounts of data, where the researchers’ interest is comparing different groups (i.e. gender and age).
It turns out that young people tend to prefer different types of preventive measures depending on the risky situation at hand. In order to avoid victimization of online bullying, youngsters prefer instrumental (technical) actions to protect themselves. To protect themselves from shocking or disturbing (sexual) content, avoidance behavior is more popular. In the preventive stage, gender and age matter: girls are more communicative and talk more with peers and parents about (potentially) unpleasant situations online. The 14 to 16-year olds display more preventive behavior, especially in the fields of online communication practices to prevent contact and conduct risks.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Media Studies

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