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Research on the risks associated with children's use of the internet often aims to inform policies of risk prevention. Yet paralleling the effort to map the nature and extent of online risk is a growing unease that the goal of risk prevention tends to support an over-protective, risk-averse culture that restricts the freedom of online exploration that society encourages for children in other spheres. It is central to adolescence that teenagers learn to anticipate and cope with risk - in short, to become resilient. In this article, we inquire into children and teenagers' responses after they have experienced online content or contact risks. Pan-European findings show that especially in Northern European countries with high internet access, parental perception of likelihood of online risk to their child is negatively associated with their perceived ability to cope. A comparison of representative surveys conducted among children in three relatively 'high risk' countries (Norway, Ireland and the United Kingdom) found that although the frequency of exposure to perceived online risks, especially content risks, is fairly high, most children adopt positive (e.g. seek help from friends) or, more commonly, neutral (e.g. ignoring the experience) strategies to cope, although a minority exacerbate the risks (e.g. passing risky content on to friends). Most strategies tend to exclude adult involvement. Significant differences in both risk and coping are found by gender and age across these countries, pointing to different styles of youthful risk management.
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Keywords: Children; coping; internet; parenting; resilience; risk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Media and Communication, Oslo, Norway 2: Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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