Publication details

Youth’s experiences with online strangers: Developmental perspective

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Year of publication 2016
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description Youth interacting with unknown people from the Internet (so called online strangers) represents major concern for parents and general public (Fleming & Rickwood, 2004; Madden, Cortesi, Gasser, Lenhart, & Duggan, 2012). Empirical data about the experiences of youth themselves are however scarce and often focused primarily on their negative experiences (e.g. Livingstone, Haddon, Görzig, & Ólafsson, 2011). Previous research also mostly utilized quantitative designs which may result in omission of important parts of youths’ lived experiences and perceptions. In the present study, we analyzed qualitative data from EU Kids Online III project connected to meeting unknown people on the internet. Interviews and focus groups for this project were conducted with youths from nine countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom, N = 368). The age span of the sample includes childhood (age of 9-10 years), early adolescence (11-13 years) and middle adolescence (14-16). Participants were inquired about potentially negative or problematic situations they may encounter while using the internet and digital technology. Using thematic analysis, we classified participants’ direct and indirect experiences connected to meeting online strangers. We describe richness of these experiences and classified them in to five dominant categories, which are sorted by the varying level of interaction with unknown people online. These categories are: 1) one-way interaction, 2) instrumental interaction, 3) initiation of contact, 4) communication, and 5) offline face-to-face meeting. This classification includes both, pleasant and unpleasant experiences, and brings a wider picture to this problematic. In this presentation we specifically focus on the developmental perspective: how different are youth’s experiences with online strangers with relation to their age. The results are discussed with regard to youth development (transition from childhood into adolescence) and categories of situations which children experienced and reported.
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