The preconditions of the victimization of school children: The perception and experience of the risks of using the Internet

Jonas Ruškus, Dainius Žvirdauskas, Viktorija Kačenauskaitė

Abstract


The aim of this study was to reveal the threats that schoolchildren see when using the Internet. The questions raised in the study were the following: 1) what things found online are school-age children interested in? 2) how do schoolchildren perceive the threats of the Internet? 3) what reactions of these children do online threats provoke? The focus group method was applied to combine the quantitative and the qualitative approaches in the study. Typical case sampling was applied, and the total number of participants was 117 (12 group interviews).
The adolescents found that the exchange and listening/viewing of audio and video material was what attracted them to the Internet the most. Other common interests were the gathering of information and the improvement of knowledge, social networks, games, online trade, erotic content and pornography. The schoolchildren thought that the most common threat was letters from strangers received via email, Skype, Facebook and other online sources. The attitudes to letters from strangers were twofold: positive for they might broaden the circle of acquaintances, and negative because they might contain possible threats. Common events were the obtrusion of undesirable sites or blackmail. Accidental entry to unpleasant sites was not seen as a common case, yet the evaluation was unequivocally negative. Other occurrences that the schoolchildren stated they experienced while being online were quarrels between adolescents, intrusion into mailboxes, chats, websites or personal webpages, dissemination of information about the schoolchild, pretending to be another schoolchild and manipulation of the schoolchild’s name/nickname. The schoolchildren stated that they could already recognize sexual harassment and did not consider it to be a very significant phenomenon.
Parents’ education is an important preventive measure against their children’s online victimization. It is important for parents to know the threats, to share experience on how they manage to protect their children from online threats and to be able to recognize potential and actual harm to their children from their behaviour. Reflection and discussion are the measures that should be developed the most in order to improve children’s psychological and social resilience. Priority should be given to the development of the pedagogues’ and adolescents’ ability to analyse sensitive topics (those that are traditionally seen as taboo and thus are not mentioned or discussed) together. Since boys’ and girls’ online interests differ, the differentiation of discussion groups or debate according to gender and age is likely to be highly effective.

Keywords


schoolchildren; online victimization; risks

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789