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Publication - Research and analysis

Engaging in risky online behaviour - prevalence and associated factors: initial findings

Published: 19 Mar 2021

Initial findings on prevalence and associated factors at age 12 from the Growing Up in Scotland Survey on engaging in risky online behaviour.

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

Contents
Engaging in risky online behaviour - prevalence and associated factors: initial findings
6. Peer-Relationship Factors

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

6. Peer-Relationship Factors

6.1 Making new friends

Children were asked how easy or hard they found making new friends at secondary school. There were four possible responses: very hard, hard, easy, very easy.

Figure 11. Children who found it very easy to make friends at secondary school were more likely to have met up with someone with who they first made contact with online.
Children who easily make friends were more likely to engage in certain risky online behaviours

Children who found it very easy to make friends were more likely to have met up with someone they had first made contact with online. Although it is unclear if these children were more likely to engage in this behaviour because they were more outgoing, or if they found it easier to make friends at secondary school because they had first met other children online.

Nonetheless, this association was very weak, and no associations were found with any of the other risky online behaviours, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 9.

6.2 Peer relationships

Children were asked to evaluate how well the following statements described their friendships:

  • My friends listen to what I have to say
  • I can count on my friends to help me when I have a problem
  • I talk to my friends when I am having a problem
  • If my friends know something is bothering me, they ask me about it
  • I share my thoughts and feelings with my friends
  • My friends pay attention to me

Possible responses to each question were: never true, sometimes true, often true, always true. Responses were added together, to form a scale ranging from 6 to 24. For analysis, peer relationship scores were grouped into three equally sized categories – see Appendix 10.1 for further methodological detail.

Figure 12. Children reported on average higher levels of peer closeness
Children reported on average higher levels of peer closeness

Most children had a high level of peer closeness, with an average score of 18.9. Those with high peer closeness (a score of 22 or higher) were less likely to have engaged in three of the risky online behaviours – see Figure 13.

One in four children (25%) with high peer closeness had added someone to their friends/ contacts list they had never met face-to-face, compared to 40% of those who had low peer closeness. A small proportion of those with high peer closeness had lied to their parents about what they did online (4%, compared to 12% with low peer closeness), or done anything online that their parents would not want them to do (5%, compared to 13% with low peer closeness).

Each of these relationships was weak, and no significant association was found for any of the other risky online behaviours (sending personal information, sending a photo/video, or meeting up with someone they had first met online) – Appendix 10.2 - Table 10.

Figure 13. Children who were less close to their peers were more likely to have engaged in three specific online behaviours
Children less close to their peers were more likely to engage in risky online behaviours

6.3 Victimisation

6.3.1 Face-to-face victimisation

Children were asked the following questions about being picked on or bullied:

  • How often do children pick on you by calling you names or making fun of you in a way you don't like?
  • How often do children pick on you by leaving you out of games and chats?
  • How often do children pick on you by shoving, pushing, hitting or picking a fight with you?

For each question, responses were: most days, at least once a week, about once a month, every few months, or never. Responses were grouped into those who ever experienced these forms of bulling and those who never experienced these forms of bullying (referred to as face-to-face victimisation).

Half of children (50%) had ever experienced any of these forms of face-to-face victimisation. Children who had ever experienced face-to-face victimisation were more likely to have engaged in four risky online behaviours, than those who had never, see Figure 14.

Just over one in ten (13%) of those who had ever experienced face-to-face victimisation had done something online their parents would not want them to do (compared to 5%). Thirty-eight per cent of children who had ever experienced face-to-face victimisation had added someone to their friends /contacts list they had never met face-to-face (compared to 27%). Eleven per cent of children who had ever experienced face-to-face victimisation were also more likely to have lied to their parents about what they do online (compared to 5%). These associations were weak, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 11.

A very weak association was found for children who had sent a photo/ video of themselves. There was no statistically significant association between those that had ever experienced face-to-face victimisation and sending personal information, or meeting up with someone face-to-face they had first made contact with online.

Figure 14. Children who had ever experienced face-to-face victimisation were more likely to have engaged in four risky online behaviours.
Children who were face-to-face victimised were more likely to engage in risky online behaviours

6.3.2 Online victimisation

Children were also asked how often other children picked on them by sending them messages or by posting things online (referred to as online victimisation). Possible responses were: most days, at least once a week, about once a month, every few months, or never. As above, responses were grouped according to those who had ever experienced this, and those who had never. Fifteen per cent of children had experienced online victimisation. These children were more likely to have participated in all six risky online behaviours, see Figure 15.

Figure 15. Children who had ever been picked on by being sent messages or posts online were more likely to have engaged in all risky online behaviours.
Children who were picked on were more likely to engage in risky online behaviours

Just under half (48%) of those who had ever experienced online victimisation had added someone to their friends/ contacts list they had never met face-to-face (compared to 30%). Around one in five (19%) who had ever experienced online victimisation had done something online that they knew their parents would not want them to do (compared to 7%).

Broadly similar numbers of children who had experienced online victimisation had also lied to their parents about what they did online (16%), and/ or sent a photo/ video of themselves to someone they had never met face-to-face (14%). Whereas, only 6% of children who had never experienced online victimisation had participated in these behaviours.

These associations however were weak, and associations with the final two behaviours (met up with someone, and sent personal information) were very weak, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 11. It is unclear from this analysis if one experience results in the other, e.g. if engaging in risky online behaviour results in a greater chance of experiencing online victimisation, or if experiencing online victimisation means children are more likely to participate in risky online behaviours.

6.4 Enjoyment and engagement in school

  • I enjoy learning at school
  • I look forward to going to school
  • I hate school
  • My teacher treats me fairly
  • How often do you try your best at school?
  • How often do you misbehave or cause trouble in class?

Children were presented with the following items about their enjoyment and engagement in school:

For each question possible responses were: never, sometimes, often, always. Responses were added together to form a score ranging from 6 to 24, with 6 representing lower engagement and enjoyment and 24 a higher engagement and enjoyment of school. For analysis, responses were grouped into three equally sized groups of those with low, medium and high enjoyment and engagement in school.

Figure 16. Children on average had higher compared to lower levels of school enjoyment / engagement
Children on average had higher compared to lower levels of school enjoyment / engagement

Most children had higher levels of engagement and enjoyment of school, with an average score of 18.7. Those who had lower enjoyment and engagement in school were more likely to have engaged in all the risky online behaviours, see Figure 17. This was particularly noticeable when looking at those who had: sent a photo/ video of themselves to someone they had never met face-to-face; done anything online their parents would not want them to do; met up with someone they had first made contact with online; or sent personal information to someone they had never met face-to-face, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 12.

All these associations were weak, and this analysis cannot tell us about the direction of the relationship (i.e. if a lower engagement and enjoyment means children are more likely to engage in the behaviour, or if behaviour engagement means children are less likely to enjoy and engage with school).

Figure 17. Children with lower enjoyment and engagement with school were more likely to have engaged in all risky online behaviours.
Children with low school enjoyment/ engagement were more likely to engage in risky online behaviours

Contact

Email: GUS@gov.scot