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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

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73 page PDF

1.1 MB

Contents
Engaging in risky online behaviour - prevalence and associated factors: initial findings
7. Online Safeguarding Factors

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

7. Online Safeguarding Factors

7.1 Time spent online

Children were asked how long they usually spend on social media or messaging people on an average school day. Most children spent between one and three hours on social media, see Table B.

Table B Self-reported time spent on social media on an average school day.
Time spent on social media Proportion of children (%)
None 10
Less than 30 minutes 15
30 minutes to less than an hour 14
1 hour to less than 2 hours 17
2 hours to less than 3 hours 17
3 hours to less than 5 hours 14
5 hours to less than 7 hours 7
7 hours or more 6

Children who spent 7 hours or more on social media on an average school day were more likely to engage in all six risky online behaviours than children who spent less time online.

For three behaviours – adding someone to their friends/contacts list, sending a photo/video, or meeting up with someone they had met online - there was an approximately linear relationship. This means that, of those who go online, more children who spent more time online had engaged in the behaviour, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 13. This was particularly noticeable for those who had added someone to their friends/contacts list: 56% of those who spent 7 hours or more on social media had done this, compared to 22% of those who spent less than 30 minutes on social media on an average school day.

For the remaining three behaviours – sending personal information, doing anything online their parents would not want, and lying to their parents about their online activity – the pattern was less pronounced. Across these, children who spent 7 or more hours on social media on an average school day were the most likely to have engaged in these behaviours. However, there was less difference between the other groups – see Appendix 10.2 - Table 13.

These associations however were weak, and are not able to tell us if one behaviour leads the other, i.e. if spending more hours on social media causes a child to engage in the behaviour, or if engaging in the behaviour means children spend longer on social media. It should also be noted that, for three of the behaviours, a larger proportion of children who said that they spent no time on social media during an average school day had done the behaviour than those who spent less than 30 minutes.

7.2 Parent's knowledge of child's online activities

Main caregiver's were asked how much they felt they knew about what their child did online. Most (82%) felt that they knew almost everything or quite a lot about their child's online activities – see Figure 18. Alongside this children were asked how much they thought their parents knew about what they do online. Similar to responses from parents, most children (81%) felt their parents knew almost everything or quite a lot about what they do online – see Figure 18.

Figure 18. Most children felt their parents knew ‘almost everything’ about what they did online, while most parents felt they knew ‘quite a lot’ about what their child does online.
Children and parents both reported parents knowing a lot about their children’s online behaviour

Responses of parents and children were significantly associated with each other, however this was a weak association. When looking at the breakdown of responses, most parents either accurately judged how much they knew about their child's online activity or underestimated how much they knew, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 14.

Children who felt their parents knew almost everything about what they did online were less likely to have added someone to their friends/contacts list they had never met face-to-face (23%, compared to 63% of those who felt their parents knew almost nothing). They were also significantly less likely to have done anything online that their parents would not want them to do (6%, compared to 24%).

For three behaviours, those who felt their parents knew almost nothing were significantly more likely to have engaged in the behaviour. For example, one in four children (25%) who felt their parents knew almost nothing had lied to their parents about what they did online compared to 15% of those who felt their parents knew just a little. These children were also more likely to have met up with someone face-to-face they first made contact with online (16% of those who felt their parents knew almost nothing) and to have sent personal information to someone they had never met face-to-face (13%).

For the remaining behaviour (sent a photo/video), overall those who felt their parent knew less about what they did online were more likely to have engaged in this behaviour, and the association was linear. For example, more children who felt their parents knew just a little had sent a photo/ video (15% of children who felt their parents knew just a little, compared to 6% and 5% of those who felt their parents knew quite a lot or almost everything).

All of these associations were weak – see Appendix 10.2 – Table 15 - and do not tell us about the direction of the relationship. For example, it is unclear if children who feel their parents know less are subsequently more likely to engage in risky online behaviour, or if those children who engage in risky online behaviour are less likely to tell their parents what they do online.

A similar pattern was seen when looking at the associations between how much parents felt they knew about their child's online activities and their child's engagement in risky online behaviours. Children whose parents felt they knew less had engaged in five risky online behaviours.

For three of the behaviours, large differences were found between parents who knew 'almost nothing' about their child's online activities and those felt they knew just a little, quite a lot or almost everything. More than double the proportion of children whose parents said they knew almost nothing about their online activity had sent a photo/video of themselves to someone they had never met face-to-face (26%) compared to those who knew just a little (9%), quite a lot (7%) or almost everything (5%).

Associations between parents knowledge and child's online risk taking were weak or very weak– see Appendix 10.2 - Table 16. There was also no significant relationship between parents' knowledge and their child having had met up with someone face-to-face who they first made contact with online.

7.3 Staying safe online

7.3.1 Children's knowledge of how to protect themselves

Children were asked how much they knew about protecting themselves from strangers online, and about protecting personal information online. Possible responses were: nothing at all, not very much, quite a lot, and a great deal.

For analysis responses to these two questions were combined to produce a score ranging from 2 to 8. Most children said they knew a great deal about protecting themselves online, with an average score of 7.3, see Appendix 10.2 – Table 17 for further detail.

Children who said they knew a great deal about protecting themselves online were less likely to have added someone to their friends/contacts list they had never met face-to-face.

Just under a third of children (30%) who said they knew a great deal about protecting themselves online had engaged in this behaviour, compared to 37% of those who felt they knew less about protecting themselves online.

Children who said they knew a great deal about protecting themselves online were less likely to have lied to their parents about what they do online.

Only 7% of children who felt they knew a great deal about protecting themselves online had lied to their parents about what they did online. Whereas, one in ten children (10%) who felt they knew quite a lot, not much, or nothing at all about protecting themselves online had engaged in this behaviour.

While significant, these associations were very weak. For all other behaviours (sending personal information, sending a photo/ video, meeting up with someone, doing something online their parents would not want), there was no significant differences between those who knew a great deal about protecting themselves online and those who knew less – see Appendix 10.2 - Table 18.

7.3.2 Parent's knowledge of protecting their child online

Parents were asked how much they knew about protecting their child from strangers online, and about protecting personal information online. Possible responses were: nothing at all, not very much, quite a lot, and a great deal.

Most parents felt they knew quite a lot about protecting personal information online (53%) and protecting their child from strangers online (52%). Children reported knowing more about both these factors than their parents – see Appendix 10.2 - Table 17.

These variables were not statistically significantly associated with engagement in any of the risky online behaviours, i.e. children whose parents felt they knew less about protecting their child online were no more likely to engage in any of the risky online behaviours than those children whose parents felt they knew a great deal.

7.4 Parental mediation of online activity

Parents were asked how often they talk to their child about the following topics:

  • Strangers online
  • Protecting personal information online
  • If bullied or harassed online
  • How to behave on social networking sites
  • Rules to follow when online

Possible responses were: never, rarely, sometimes, often, very often. Most parents spoke to their child very often or often about each of the above topics, see Table C.

Table C Parents often spoke with their children about online issues
  strangers online personal info bullied or harassed behaviour on socials rules online
Never 1% 2% 3% 6% 2%
Rarely 5% 7% 8% 6% 5%
Sometimes 28% 26% 24% 19% 24%
Often 40% 38% 37% 37% 40%
Very often 26% 27% 29% 33% 29%

For analysis, responses to these questions were combined to give a total score ranging from 5 to 25. High scores represent parents who spoke to their children more frequently about the above topics. No statistically significant association was found between how much parents discussed these topics and their child's participation in any risky online behaviours, see Appendix 10.2 - Table 19.

7.5 Parent rules and restrictions of online activities

Parents were asked if they imposed any rules or restrictions on their child's online activity. As shown in Table D, most parents reported having rules about what their child could do online (72%). The use of other restrictions and rules was also fairly common, with only 10% of parents saying that they did not use any rule or restriction regarding their child's online activities.

Children whose parents reported using two or more restrictions were less likely to have added someone to their friends or contacts list they had never met face to face. Just under one in three (30%) children whose parents used multiple restrictions had participated in this behaviour, compared to half (50%) of those whose parents just used technical restrictions – see Appendix 10.2 – Table 20.

However, these associations were weak and this analysis cannot be used to imply causation. Statistically significant associations were not found for any of the other risky online behaviours.


Contact

Email: GUS@gov.scot