LASICS .::. Open Conference Systems, IAMCR 2010: Communication and Citizenship

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A pan-European study on children’s online experiences: contributions from cognitive testing

Leslie Haddon, Cristina Ponte

Last modified: 2010-07-14


Following previous research on children’s online opportunities and risks across Europe (see, the project EU Kids Online II, also funded by the Safer Internet Plus Programme, is currently conducting a 25 country survey examining children’s use of the internet. It aims to identify how children (aged 9-16) deal with the internet in a safe way, and what psycho, social and cultural factors, including parental mediation, might contribute to this behaviour. In each country, a representative sampling of 1,000 children and parents will be interviewed face to face. First results will be presented in October 2010.

The main focus of this comparative research is on the sensitive area of how children experience and cope with online risks, such as cyberbullying, pornography, sexual messages and offline meetings with people they originally met online. Therefore, the children’s survey includes a self-completion questionnaire, answered with total privacy and anonymity.

International projects involving empirical research are always demanding because of the existence of different languages and cultures. In particular, the current research faces specific and additional challenges relating to the number of countries involved, the fact that the interviewees are children from 9-16 (along with one parent), and the fact that the main focus is on the sensitive topic of online risks. This raises issues relating to such matters as the attention span of young children, the types of words they understand compared to an adults, the sensitive nature of the area, especially for younger children, and cultural differences in the connotations of the language used.

In order to address these challenges, national EU Kids Online teams provided translations of English words and expressions associated with the internet (some non-existent in other languages, like cyberbullying) for the market research companies developing national questionnaires and reviewed their translated questionnaires, from English to the national langue.

Also prior to the survey, cognitive testing was conducted in all the participating countries. This involved in-depth interviews to evaluate children’s understanding of the questionnaire, their ability to answer each question and any ambiguities or other difficulties that emerged. This paper reports the findings of these tests and the insights they provide for designing this type of cross-national survey.

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