Publication details

Youth interaction with online strangers : experiences and reactions to unknown people on the Internet



Year of publication 2018
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Information, Communication & Society
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Field Psychology
Keywords Online strangers; interaction with unknown people; coconstruction model; online risks
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Description Previous research on youths’ experiences with online strangers has mostly utilized quantitative designs which may result in the omission of important parts of the youths’ experiences and perceptions. In this qualitative study, we adopt a child-centred approach and focus on the children’s and adolescents’ experiences with unknown people from the Internet. This is one of the most pronounced parental concerns, despite the fact that an online presence is now normative for most children. We use the data from focus-groups and individual interviews in nine European countries (N = 368) conducted with youths between the ages of 9 and 16 years. Participants were asked about their perceptions of potentially negative or problematic situations while using the Internet and digital technology. Using thematic analysis, we classified youths’ experiences and reactions related to interacting with online strangers in four themes: (1) non-verbal interaction; (2) initiation of contact; (3) communication; and (4) face-to-face meeting. In all four levels of interactions, children and adolescents reported a variety of positive and negative experiences and reactions. We interpret our findings with a coconstruction model which perceives children and adolescents as active participants in the online world. We conclude that children are successfully making active decisions to initiate, continue, and stop interactions with unknown people from the Internet. These findings broaden the current perspectives of youths’ meetings with unknown people online.
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