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BehindtheScreen
Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline
byKayWitherswithRuthSheldon
April2008
©ippr2008

InstituteforPublicPolicyResearch
Challengingideas– Changingpolicy
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Foreword
Thegenerationaldividebetweenchildrenandyoungpeopleandtheirparentsisperhapsmostwidely
seenintheirviewsandapproachestotheinternetandmedialiteracy.Withthisinmind,howdowe
ensurethatchildrenandyoungpeoplearesafeguardedfromharminwaythatisnotoverthetopin
principleanddraconianinstyle,whileatthesametimemaintainingtheinternetasaplacefor
freedom,expression,creativityandsocialisation?
Whatthisreporthasrecognisedisthatonlythroughtheparticipationofchildrenandyoungpeoplein
anypolicycreationandimplementationcanwehopetoachievebestoutcomesforthosewhoare
deemedtobethemostvulnerableinternetcommunity.
Initsrecommendations,thisreportcallsforcollaborationandsupportfrompeers,youthservices,
teachersandparents,ratherthantop-downrestrictionsandrulesdictatedfromcentralgovernment.
Theroleofmedialiteracymustbefullyexploredthroughinformalandformaleducationalstructures
involvingbothyoungpeopleandtheoldergenerationstoenableuseoftheinternettobeasafeand
enjoyableprocessforall.
Onlythroughworkingtogetherwiththeactiveinvolvementofchildrenandyoungpeopleasan
integralpartoftheprocesscanwebestensurethatthosewhoneeditareprotectedfromthedangers
oftheonlinecommunity,andthattheirexplorationofselfidentity,theirplaceincommunityandtheir
roleinsocietyarefullysupported.

AlexFarrow(19)
TheNationalYouthAgency
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Contents
Aboutippr ........................................................................................................................................... 4
Abouttheauthors.............................................................................................................................. 4
Acknowledgements............................................................................................................................ 4
Executivesummary ............................................................................................................................ 5
Introduction ........................................................................................................................................ 9
1.Fromconsumptiontoengagement:livinglifeonline................................................................... 14
2.Managingrisk:publicprivatelives................................................................................................. 23
3.Thelimitsofrulesandregulations................................................................................................ 42
4.Learningbydoing:empoweringyoungpeoplethroughmediapractice ..................................... 52
5.Conclusionandrecommendations................................................................................................ 61
References......................................................................................................................................... 66
Appendix1:Researchmethodology–deliberativeworkshops........................................................ 73
Appendix2:Groupprofiles ............................................................................................................... 75
Appendix3:Definitionofsocialclasses ........................................................................................... 76
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Aboutippr
TheInstituteforPublicPolicyResearch(ippr)istheUK’sleadingprogressivethinktank,producing
cutting-edgeresearchandinnovativepolicyideasforajust,democraticandsustainableworld.
Since1988,wehavebeenattheforefrontofprogressivedebateandpolicymakingintheUK.Through
ourindependentresearchandanalysiswedefinenewagendasforchangeandprovidepractical
solutionstochallengesacrossthefullrangeofpublicpolicyissues.
WithofficesinbothLondonandNewcastle,weensureouroutlookisasbroad-basedaspossible,
whileourinternationalandmigrationteamsandclimatechangeprogrammeextendourpartnerships
andinfluencebeyondtheUK,givingusatrulyworld-classreputationforhighqualityresearch.
ippr,30-32SouthamptonStreet,LondonWC2E7RA.Tel:+44(0)2074706100E:info@ippr.org
www.ippr.org.RegisteredCharityNo.800065

ThispaperwasfirstpublishedinApril2008.©ippr2008

Abouttheauthors
KayWithers isaresearchfellowinthedirectors’researchteamatippr.Beforethatsheworkedasa
researchertoBrianWhiteMP,andwaspolicyadvisertotheInternetServicesProvidersAssociation.
Herpreviouspublicationsincludethe ChangingNatureofSocietyandtheRoleofTelevision (for
Channel42008), PublicInnovation:Intellectualpropertyinadigitalage(ippr,withWilliamDavies
2006)and IntellectualPropertyandtheKnowledgeEconomy(ippr,2006).
RuthSheldon isaresearchassistantinthepeopleandpolicyteamatippr,whereshehasdesigned
andcarriedoutqualitativeresearchprojectsusingarangeofmethodologies.Shehasconducted
researchwithrefugees,peoplewhoareoutofwork,youngpeopleandresidentslivinginsocial
housing.Priortojoiningippr,Ruthworkedasaresearcherforapublicpolicycommunications
company,theBBCandwithtwoacademicsociologists.Shehasalsoworkedasavolunteerfora
communityhistorycharityandforacharityworkingwithyoungpeopleinTowerHamlets.

Acknowledgements
Theauthorsandipprwouldliketothankpeoplewhocontributedtothisprojectandparticularlythose
whocommentedondrafts:JamieCowling,TriciaJessiman,CandicePiresandfromippr,Naomi
Newman,JuliaMargoandJamesCrabtree.Wewouldliketothankthefundersoftheprojectfortheir
generoussupportofthiswork:theNationalYouthAgency,andtheDepartmentofCulture,Mediaand
SportandOfcom,whofundedthequalitativeresearch.
Finally,wewouldlikeextendthankstotheyoungpeoplewhoparticipatedinthequalitativeresearch
whoprovidedvaluableinsightsandideas.Withoutthemthisresearchwouldtrulynothavebeen
possible.
Theviewsexpressedinthisreportremainsolelythoseofthereportauthors.
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Executivesummary
Moreandmore,policymakersneedtoaddresstheopportunitiesthatnewtechnologiespresentfor
youngpeopletoengagewitheachotherthroughmedia,ratherthanissuessimplyrelatingtohowthe
internetandthecontentithostsimpactsonyoungpeople.Thisisanewareaforgovernment–and
onethatwillrequireanewapproach,andnewevidence,toenableittobesuccessfullynegotiated.
Whilewehavearangeofstatisticalinformationrelatingtoaccesstoandownershipofnewmedia
devices,therehavebeenfewattemptstodelvedeeperthantop-linefiguresandstatisticstoreally
drawoutthewaysinwhichyoungpeopleengagewithcontent,andwitheachother,online.
Withoutasoundevidencebaseandunderstanding,policywaversprecariouslybetweenover-
regulationandnoregulationatall,withneitherapproachlikelytosatisfy.
Thisreport,drawingonlandmarkqualitativeresearchwithyoungpeopleandoriginalempirical
analysis,aimstodevelopapolicyagendathatwouldallowgovernment,parents,corporatesand
internetproviderstoaddressgrowingconcernsaboutchildsafetyonlinewhileensuringthatthe
opportunitiestheinternetofferstoyoungpeoplearenotrestricted.

Arapidlychangingmediaexperience
Youngpeopleinhabitavastlydifferentworldtothatexperiencedbytheirparentsandthecurrentcrop
ofpolicymakersintheiryouth.Injustover25years,wehavemovedfromamediaworldofjustthree
terrestrialtelevisionchannelstoonethatoffersanabundanceofcontent,availableonachoiceof
platforms.Foryoungpeople,theinternetandtheopportunitiesitoffersarenotnoveltiesbutarepart
ofeverydaylife.Itisdifficultforadults,parentsandpolicymakerstofullycomprehendthis:theycan
likelyrememberlifebeforeconstantconnectivity,beforebroadbandaccessineveryofficeandbefore
mobilephoneswereconsideredaneverydayessential.
Youngpeoplenowhaveaccesstoasophisticatedrangeofnewmediatoolsatincreasinglyyoung
ages,withfourinfive5-to15-year-oldshavingaccesstotheinternetathome.Youngpeoplereport
usingtheinternetforseveralhoursanight,primarilytosocialisewithfriendsusingInstantMessenger
andsocialnetworkingsitessuchasMySpace,FacebookandBebo.
Accessistypicallyunsupervised.Whilethecomputermaybeplacedinacommunalroomofthe
house,youngpeopletendtoaccesstheinternetalone.Thishasimplicationsfortheextenttowhich
theyareabletoengageinsocialandcommercialactivityunsupervisedinwaysthatcouldnothave
beenimagined20yearsago.
Thesetrends,thechangingnatureofaccess,andthegenerationaldividebetweenparentsand
policymakersandyoungpeople,raisehugequestionsastohowcapableparentsaretomakeinformed
decisionsabouttheirchildren’sinternetuse–forinstance,consideringtheshort-termimpactofthis
interactionontheirimmediatewell-being,anditslongertermaffectsontheirpsychosocial
development.

Understandinghowyoungpeoplenegotiateonlinerisk
Inordertomakesureanypolicydevelopediseffectiveandappropriate,itiscrucialthatwegainan
understandingofhowyoungpeopleusetheinternet,andtheirattitudestowardsonlineactivity.The
pointsbelowsummariseippr’snewfindingsinthisarea:
• Youngpeoplehavecontradictoryattitudestowardstheinternet Youngpeopledescribe
manyaspectsofinternetuseasbothpositiveandnegative.Forinstance,whiletheydescribethe
increasedopportunitytosocialisewithfriendsasabenefit,theyalsoexpressconcernatthe
‘addictive’natureoftheinternet.Thesumoftimespentonline,andtheimportanceplacedon
‘constantconnectivity’hasimplicationsforyoungpeople’swell-beingandpsychosocial
development,theoriesofwhichemphasisetheneedtospendtimealone.
• Attitudestoprivacyandsafetyareextremelycontradictory Youngpeopleexperiencea
tensionbetweenastrongdislikeofstrangerslookingattheirsocialnetworkingprofiles,anda
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sensethatamajorbenefitofhavingasocialnetworkingsite(SNS)profileistheopportunityto
self-advertise.Youngpeopleemphasisetheneedtoaddphotosanddetailontheironlineprofiles
inorderthatpeoplewillwanttobecometheirfriends.Thisprocessisregularlyreferredtoas‘self-
advertising’.Theyalsorejectthenotionofmakingtheirprofileprivate,asthiswouldstopitbeing
viewedwidely.
• Attitudestomeetingnewpeoplearecontradictory Forexample,youngpeoplearewell
awareof‘strangerdanger’,andtendtousetheinternettosocialisewithpeopletheyalready
know.Therearealsostrongnormsagainstusingtheinternettomeetnewpeople.Nonetheless,
youngpeopledousetheinternettocommunicatewith‘friendsoffriends’–peoplewithwhom
theyhavesomeconnection,nomatterhowtenuous–forexample,someonewhowaslinked
throughasocialnetworkingsiteorcopiedintothesamechainemail.
Whenyoungpeopledomeetupwith‘friendsoffriends’theyhavemetonline,theyhavea
numberofmechanismstheyemployinordertoensuretheirsafety.Forinstance,theyplacemore
trustinawebcamthanaphotoinestablishingidentity,asthereisrecognitionthatphotoscanbe
fake.Theyalsotendtomeetpeoplewithagroupoffriendsratherthanalone.
• Cyberbullyingisnotarecognisedconcept Youngpeopledonottendtousetheterm
‘cyberbullying’,andtherearestrongnormstowards‘seeingthejoke’whereonlinebehaviouris
concerned.Thecontextofofflinerelationshipsiscrucialindecidingwhethercertainactionsonline
areacceptableornot–forinstance,posting‘joke’orembarrassingphotosorvideosoffriendsor
acquaintancesonline.Theparticularimplicationsofonlineexposurearenotsignificantforyoung
people.Theyoftendonotdistinguishbetweendoingsomethingembarrassingorharmfulto
someoneandputtinganimageofthisonline.
Ultimately,theattitudesandbehavioursofyoungpeopleonlineleadustotwoclearconclusions.
First,youngpeopleconceptualiseriskintermsofimmediate,quantifiableconsequencesofbehaviour.
Youngpeople’sconceptsofriskarelargelyformedthroughthestoriesinthenewsmediaandwere
negotiatedintermsofthelikelihoodofanegativeconsequence,includingbeingcaught.So,for
example,whereactivitiessuchasplagiarism,activitiesequatingtoadultdefinitionsof‘cyberbullying’
andlaxattitudestoprivacyareconcerned,youngpeoplefeelrelativelyfreefromconsequence,and
thereforedonotconsidersuchactivitiestobe‘risky’.
Second,youngpeopledonotreflectontheironlinebehaviour.Thisextendstoyoungpeople’slackof
awarenessoftheimplicationsofonlineexposureofthemselvesandothers,alimitedconceptofthe
audiencewhomaybeviewingtheiractivitiesonline,andtheextenttowhichtheyarewillingtotake
informationaccessedonlineatfacevalue.
Overall,thesefindingssuggestthatyoungpeople’stechnicalexpertisecanoftenexceedtheir
understanding.Thisisthegapwhichpolicymustbridgetoensurethatyoungpeoplearenot
needlesslyputtingthemselvesatriskonlineandinsteadcangetthemostoutofwhattheinternethas
tooffer.

Howcanpublicpolicyrespond?
Inordertotrulyprotectyoungpeopleonline,publicpolicymustbegintoaddressthemorecomplex
problemsofhowyoungpeopleusemediatechnologiestoengagewitheachother,ratherthansimply
focusingonthenegativeimpactthatcontentmayhaveonchildrenandyoungpeople.Thismeans
understandingandtakingaccountoftheactiverolethatyoungpeoplethemselvesplayinformulating
theirownexperiences.
Ultimately,wemustaimtoachieveacollaborativeapproachthatengagesarangeoforganisations
andindividuals,includingparents,educators,governmentandindustry,butthatalsoincludesusers
themselves.Itisimportanttorecognisethatthereisalimittowhatpublicpolicyalonecanachieve:
theinternetisneverlikelytobeanentirelyrisk-freeenvironment,andtheactionsofusersthemselves
willbejustasimportantasregulationintheyearstocome.Nonetheless,publicpolicycanestablisha
frameworktoallowustoreactinasensible,appropriateandtimelyfashiontochangestomediausers’
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attitudesandbehaviours.Withoutthisinplace,wewillcontinuallybeinreactivemodeandnegligent
inadutytoprotectandprepareyoungpeoplesufficientlyforthedigitalworldtheyareleftto
navigate.

Recommendations
1.ChargeOfcomwithproducinganannualreportdetailingtheeffectivenessofexisting
self-andco-regulatoryregimes
Ofcomcurrentlyhasadutytopromoteself-andco-regulatoryschemes.Inordertomakesureaction
whereinternetcontentanduseisconcernediscoordinatedandcomprehensive,Ofcomshould
produceadedicatedannualreportdetailingtheeffectivenessofschemesandidentifyingwherethere
aregapsinprovision.Governmentcanthentakeaviewofwhereindustryshouldtakefurtheraction.
Ifthisisnotforthcoming,governmentshouldconsideralternativeregulatoryapproaches.
2.GiveresponsibilityformedialiteracytotheDepartmentforChildren,Schoolsand
Families(DCSF)
TheGovernment’scurrentmedia-literacyagendaisunambitiousandunder-performing.Ithassuffered
fromlackofengagementfromDCSF,despitethefactthatthisdepartmentistheonethatlargelyhas
todealwiththeconsequencesofalackofmedialiteracyofyoungpeopleandadults.DCSFshouldbe
givenleadresponsibilityinthisareainordertodriveacomprehensivemedia-literacyprogramme
forward,engagingrelevantdeliveragentssuchasschools,youthservicesandothers.
3.Driveforwardconsultationontheextentofcorporatesocialresponsibilitytoyouthin
thenewmediaworld
TheDCSFshouldleadtheagendaintermsofunderstandingtheroleofcorporatesocialresponsibility
whereraisingyouthisconcerned.Thismeansconsideringtherolesnotonlyofinternetservice
providers,mobileoperatorsandotherstowhomweregularlyattachtheterm‘industry’,butalsoofa
widerrangeofcommercialinterestswhoseektoengagewithyoungpeopleinsocialspacesthatare
largelyunmediatedbyadults.TheDCSFshouldseektodriveforwardpolicyinthisarea,in
consultationwiththecorporatesector,consumerorganisationsandrepresentatives,parentsand–
mostimportantly–youngpeoplethemselves,andshouldtaskthecorporatesectorwithdrawingupa
definitionofcorporatesocialresponsibilitythatcanbeappliedtoengagementwithyoungpeoplein
thedigitalmediaspace.
4.Ensurethatage-restrictionmechanismsbecomemorerobustandusedmorewidely
Industryshouldcontinuetoworkonimprovingthesafetyoftheirofferingstoyoungpeopleand,in
particular,shouldlookatstrengtheningage-restrictionmechanismswheretheseareemployed.
Industryplayersshouldalsoensuretheyarefullyengagedwithcurrentsafetyinitiatives,suchasthe
InternetWatchFoundation,andsupporttheirwork.
Theindustry–includingserviceproviders,socialnetworkingsitesandcommercialentitiesengaging
withyouthonline–shouldcooperatewithgovernmentindevelopingnewcodesofrightsand
responsibilitiesandensuringgreatercodecomplianceinordertoenhancegoodbehaviourandthe
positiveexperiencesofyoungpeopleonline.
5.Revitalisethemedia-literacyagendaanddeliveritthroughtheExtendedSchools
programme
Recentadvancesingovernmentpolicy–particularlytheExtendedSchoolsprogramme–presentsa
hugeopportunitytointroducemedia-literacyteachinginamoreinnovativeandexcitingwaythan
everbefore.Ratherthantreatingmedialiteracyasaninformationandcommunicationtechnology
(ICT)skillset,tobetaughtinatraditionallessonformat,youngpeopleshouldbeencouragedto
createmediatexts–anactivitythatislikelytoprovepopularandbebeneficialintermsofother
outcomessuchasschoolachievement.Creatingtheirownmediawillenableyoungpeopletobuild
greatercriticalskillstowardsinformationtheyaccessandcreateandlearnmoreaboutthe
consequencesoftheiractionsonline.
Suchaprogrammeofworkcouldbedeliveredbylinkingtheactivitycurrentlyongoinginthe
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communitymediasectorwiththatofschools,utilisingtheknowledgeandskillsofmediapractitioners.
6.Makeinformationandlearningopportunitiesavailabletoparents,throughexisting
initiativessuchasSureStartandtheExtendedSchoolsprogramme.
Reachingparentsremainsadifficultchallenge.However,theGovernment’sagendaforsupporting
parentsoutlinedintheChildren’sPlanprovidesanopportunitytoensurethatinformationisavailable
forparentswhenandwheretheywantit.Media-literacyinitiativesaimedatencouragingparentsto
engageinsupportiveonlineactivitieswithyoungpeopleshouldbedeliveredthroughexisting
initiativessuchasSureStartandtheExtendedSchoolsprogramme.
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1.Introduction
Allchange:thebravenewmediaworld
Themediahasconsistentlyplayedanimportantroleincivilisedsociety.Fromtheinventionofthe
printingpressinthe17thcenturytotheadventoftelevisionandradioandfinally,theemergenceof
theinternet,themediahasservedtocommunicateideasandinformation,toprovidespaceforpublic
discourse,andtoentertainandeducatecitizensaroundtheglobe.
Werelyheavilyonthemedia–forinformation,forentertainmentandforaccesstothepublicsphere
–andithasthereforelongbeenthoughtofasapowerfulforce,capableofinfluencingtheattitudes
andbehavioursofitsconsumers.Theroleofthemediainpropagandacampaigns–particularlyduring
thefirstandsecondworldwars–showshowrealandpowerfulthatinfluencecanbe(Hermanand
Chomsky1988,MacKenzie1984).

Isthereaproblem?
Alongtheway,manyhavevoicedfearsofthepotentialfornegativeinfluencebymediamessages–
particularlyonchildrenandyoungpeople.Thepresumedpowerofthemediajuxtaposedwiththe
vulnerabilityofyoungpeople,hasledtopublicpanicwheneveranewmediaformisintroduced.In
the1950s,therewerewidespreadconcernsabouttheimpactofviolentimagesincomics(Nyberg
1988).The1960sbroughtfearsthatpopularmusicwouldencourageyoungpeopletoshedtraditional
valuesandbehavebadlyasaresult(Savage1988).Inmorerecentdecadestherehavebeensimilar
concernsabouttheimpactofviolenceinfilmsandvideogames,andthesecontinuetothisday.
Innovationsindigitaltechnologieshaveresultedinanabundanceofcontentandchoice,asuserscan
accessamind-bogglinglywiderangeofmaterialatanytime,dayornight,throughvastlyincreased
accesstomediadevices.This,combinedwiththefactthatinternetcontentisnotsubjecttothesame
standardsthatweapplytotraditionalbroadcastcontent,meansthatparentsandguardiansare
increasinglyworriedabouthowtostopyoungpeoplecomingintocontactwithcontentdeemed
unsuitable–forexample,contentdepictingextremeviolenceorofagraphicsexualnature.
Thesefearsdrawonalongtrendofanalyticalworkthatseekstoassesstheimpactofindividuals
engagingwithmediabyaccessingcontentthroughvariousdevicestoretrieveinformationorfor
entertainment.Forexample,doesviewingviolentcontentencourageviolentbehaviour?Does
increasedconsumptionofsexualcontentencouragepromiscuity,ordoesitcauseviewerstoform
certainattitudestowardswomen(ormen)?
Thesequestionsremainrelevant,andplayanimportantroleinourunderstandingoftheinternet.But
convergenceofnewmediatechnologiessuchastheinternetwithtraditionalmediaformssuchas
televisionandradiobegsanewquestion:forhowlongcantheregulatorydistinctionbetween
broadcast(whichisincreasinglytakingonthecharacteristicsofon-demand,multimediacontent)and
internetcontent(whichisincreasinglytakingonthecharacteristicsofbroadcastmaterial),remain
salientintermsofstandardsofcontent?

Possiblesolutions
Asthedivergencebetweentheconcernsofparentsandpublicpolicymakersandthecurrentmedia
regulatoryframeworkbecomesmorestriking,wearefacedwithaproblem.Andasthenewsstories
reportinginternetscandalsbecomemorefrequent,thereisastrongandgrowingsensethat
somethingmustbedone.
Butwhat?WhiletheUKhasastronghistoryofstateinterventioninmediaprovision,aswehave
movedawayfromananalogueagemeansthattheprinciplesandpolicyleversweoncereliedupon
arethreatened.Inthepast,governmentshavebeenabletoimposepublicobligationsonbroadcasters
todelivermaterialthatmeetscertainsocialobjectivesinreturnforaccesstospectrum–ascarce
commodity–tobroadcasttelevision.Becauseofbottlenecksindistributionofbroadcastcontent,it
hasbeenpossibletoimposestrongeditorialcontrolonanythingthatisdeliveredtoaudiences
throughtelevision.However,theinternetremovesthesetechnicallimitationsandthusreducethe
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bargainingtoolsavailabletoregulatorstocontinueregulating.
Thenewformsofmediameanthereisanewissue:foryoungpeopletoday,engagingwiththemedia
isatwo-wayprocess.Asopposedtobeingpassiverecipientsofmediamessages,todayyoungpeople
playanactiveroleincontributingtotheverymediathattheyconsume.Foryoungpeople,themost
importantfeaturesofdigitalmediatechnologies,andtheonestheyhaveembracedmost
enthusiastically,arethosethatallowincreasedsocialisationwiththeirpeers–forexample,social
networkingsites(SNSs),instantmessaging(IM)servicesandtextmessaging(ManteandPiris2002).
Thisraisesadifferentsetofissues.Perhapsmostprominenthasbeenthethreattoyoungpeople
fromadultsexualpredatorsonline.Parentsarenownotjustconcernedaboutinappropriatecontent
butalsoinappropriateapproaches.Thisfearwasperhapsatitshighestwhentheuseofchatrooms
reacheditspeakduringthelate1990sandintotheearlymillennium,butithasemergedagainmore
recentlywiththeriseofsocialnetworkingsites.
Thethreatposedbyadultpredators,thepotentialharmcausedbyviewinginappropriatecontent,and
thetypicalpolicyresponsestothesethreats,whichcentreonprotection,forinstancebylimiting
accesstotheinternet,suggestthatyoungpeoplearestillbeingseenasessentiallyreactive–
respondingtothemediatheyconsume.However,intheemergingdigitalage,thisisfarfromthe
truth.Wherecontentconsumptionisconcerned,youngpeoplecannolongerbeseenasapassive
audiencereadytoreceivewhatevercontentbroadcastersputout.Increasingly,theyarebuildingtheir
ownentertainmentexperiencebyselectingcontenttoviewonlineusingvideo-sharingwebsitessuch
asYouTube,orbydownloadingcontentviacommercialservicessuchasiTunesorofferingsfrom
traditionalbroadcasterssuchastheBBC’siPlayer,orChannel4’s4ODservice.
Butperhapsthestarkestchangeiswhereonlinesocialisationisconcerned.Youngpeopleareusingthe
internettosocialiseandexploretheiridentitiesinwaysthatcouldnothavebeenimagined20years
ago.Theinternetisincreasinglybecomingaplatformonwhichemergingsocialtrendsareplayedout:
increasedlevelsofunmediatedsocialisationofyoungpeoplewithpeers,increasedautonomyfrom
parents,andanearliertransitionfromchildhoodtoadulthood–particularlywheresexualand
commercialactivityisconcerned.WhiletheGovernmentgrappleswithhowtobegintoconsiderthe
problemoftheregulationofinternetcontent,themorecomplexproblemofhowtoregulatetheway
peopleengagewithitloomslargeinthebackground.

Aimsofthisreport
Thisreportcombinesthefindingsofourownqualitativeresearchwithareviewofexistingevidence
andliterature,toexplorehowregulationshouldrespondtothechangingmedialandscapeandthe
behaviourofusers.
Inthefaceofgrowingconcernsfrompoliticiansandparentsalike,theoptionofsimply‘doing
nothing’inresponsetotheinterdependentissuesdescribedaboveisunlikelytobepolitically
palatable.Butthereisanequallystrongmessagecomingfromyoungpeoplethemselves:thatthey
shouldbeabletocontroltheirownexperiences.Wheregovernmentdoesmakeamove,itrunsthe
riskofalienatingyoungergenerationsbyappearingoutdated,imposingtop-downregulationsand
actinglikeaparent.
Commonsensewouldsuggestthattheadultworldisduty-boundtojudgehowsafeandresilient
youngergenerationsactuallyare,incomparisonwithhowtheyperceivethemselvestobe.However,if
wearetodevelopappropriatepolicyresponses,thenitisessentialthatwegainanuanced
understandingofwheretheinternetfitsintoyoungpeople’severydaylives,andtheirattitudes,
behavioursandexpectationsinrelationtothecontentandopportunitiesitoffers.Whilewehavea
rangeofstatisticalinformationrelatingtoaccesstoandownershipofnewmediadevices,therehave
beenfewattemptstodelvedeeperthantop-linefiguresandstatisticstoreallydrawoutthewaysin
whichyoungpeopleengagewithcontent,andwitheachother,online.
Withoutasoundevidencebaseandunderstanding,policywaversprecariouslybetweenover-
regulationandnoregulationatall,withneitherapproachlikelytosatisfy.
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Thisipprreportaimstoaddressthisgap,maintainingthataregulatoryregimefitforfuturemedia
citizensmustcomefromastartingpointoffirstunderstandingthepractices,behavioursand
expectationsofyoungergenerations.Itaimstodevelopaprogressiveapproachtomediaregulationin
whichweseektounderstandtheinterplaybetweenyoungpeople’suseofmedia,socialchangeand
socialbehavioursinorderthatwecaneffectivelyidentifytheroleforpublicpolicy.
Ourrecommendationsareaimedatkeepingyoungpeoplesafeinthecontextofrapidlyshifting
boundariesandchangingopportunitiesandbehaviours.Butitisimportanttorecognisethattherole
forpolicyisminorinrelationtotherolesofyoungpeoplethemselves,parentsandsocietyasawhole,
asweincreasinglyunderstandthemoredeeplyrootedconsequencesofnewmedia.
Thedebateoverhowtoapproachprotectingyoungpeopleonlineisdividedandoftenveersfromone
extremetoanother.Thereisapolicyvacuum,whichgovernmentmusttakestepstofillsoonerrather
thanlater.Ourrecommendations,takenacrossthepiece,presentaprogressiveaccountastohowwe
moveforwardonacollective,society-widebasis,tofulfilboththeexpectationsofparentsand
guardiansandthedesiresofyoungpeople.
Thisisnottosuggestthatregulationshouldseeksolelytoadapttoyoungusersasconsumers,nor
thatregulationinthisenvironmentshouldbelimitedtomerelyfacilitatingconsumerchoiceina
communicationsmarketplace.Themediacontinuestoplayanimportantroleinearlysocialisationand
inmovingtowardsactivecitizenshipand,despitetheshiftfromanaloguetodigital,itisclearthat
continuedinterventioninyoungpeople’smediaexperiencecontinuestobenecessary.So,whilewe
aimtolistentoyoungpeopleandlearnfromtheirexperiences,wealsoseektoinfluencetheirchoices
andcurtailthemwherenecessary.

Researchmethods
Inordertogainaperspectiveonyoungpeople’suseoftheinternet,wesoughttoconsultwithyoung
peopleasmuchaspossible.Weheldthreedeliberativeworkshopswithyoungpeopleandalso
conducteddiaryresearch.Throughthesemethods,wesoughttoexplorethefollowingkeyissues:
• Whatdoyoungpeopleusetheinternetfor,andhowdotheyuseit–particularlyinrelationto
socialnetworkingsites?
• Whatareyoungpeople’sattitudestowardsprivacyandsafety?
• Whatareyoungpeople’sattitudestowards,andexperienceof,so-calledcyberbullying?
• Howdoyoungpeopleusetheinternettofindoutinformation?
Participantswererecruitedfromarangeofsocio-economicbackgrounds.Allhadbroadbandaccess
andmobilephones.Thiswaspartlytoensurethatnoparticipantfeltexcluded,butalsobecausethe
focusofthisresearchhasbeenonuseoftheinternetratherthanaccesstoit.Wedeliberatelyusedan
approachwithyoungpeopleatitscentreinordertoavoidimposingadultconceptsofriskand
vulnerability.Instead,thepurposewastounderstandhowyoungpeopleexperiencednew
technologies,andthepositiveandnegativeaspectsofthesetechnologiesasperceivedbyyoung
peoplethemselves.
Theresearchlargelyfocusedontheuseofsocialnetworkingsites,instantmessengerandvideo-
sharingwebsitesasyoungpeoplethemselvesidentifiedtheseasbeingthemostpopularsites.A
summaryisavailableinthebox‘Youngpeople’sfavouritesitesandservices’,nextpage.
AfulloutlineoftheresearchmethodologyiscontainedinAppendix1,withabreakdownofgroup
participantsavailableinAppendix2.

Structureofthereport
Theremainderofthisreportisdividedintofivechapters:
• Chapter1 givesabroadoverviewofthechangestothemedialandscapethathavetakenplace
recently,andidentifiesthedriversofthesechanges.Itoutlineshowyoungpeoplehave
respondedintermsofthetimespentwithmedia,andhighlightschangingpatternsofaccess,
includingincreasinglevelsofunsupervisedaccess.
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• Chapter2 looksatthechallengespresentedbythechangessetoutinChapter1,outliningthe
resultsofourqualitativeresearchinareasincludingsafety,privacyandcyberbullying.Itthen
considersothercurrentareasofconcern,includingaccesstoharmfulcontentandexposureto
advertising.
• Chapter3 outlinesthecurrentregulatoryframeworkandexploresthedifficultiesinvolvedin
extendingformalregulationtotheinternetenvironment.Italsolooksatthedifferentrolesof
self-andco-regulation.
• Chapter4 emphasisesthatwecannotexpectregulationtodoeverything,andthattherealityof
theinternetissuchthatapartnershipapproachisnotonlywelcomedbutnecessary.Itargues
thatparents,educatorsandusersthemselvesmusttakestepstobuildtheircapacitytomanage
theirownexperience.Itthenexploresthecurrentmedia-literacyframework,andprovides
recommendationsforpushingthisforward.
• Chapter5 setsouttherecommendationsandconclusionstothisreport.

Youngpeople’sfavouritesitesandservices
Socialnetworkingsites
Therearehugenumbersofsocialnetworkingsites(SNSs),andtheyarepopularamonginternet
users.ForinstanceFacebook(www.facebook.com)hasover66millionactiveusers(source:
Facebookpressroom,accessed3/3/08)whileMySpace(www.myspace.com)hostswellover
100millionaccounts(Register2006).IntheUK,almostthreequarters(72percent)ofchildren
havevisitedanSNS,andoverhalfofthesehavesetuptheirownprofile(Ward2008).
Onlinecommunitieshavealwaysbeenastrongfeatureoftheinternet,andSNSsareanatural
progressionfromthese.Butwhereaspreviousexamplessoughttolinkpeoplearoundashared
interest,SNSsallowpeopletoconnectthroughexistingsocialrelationships.
WhileeachSNSdiffersfromthenext,theyshareanumberofcommonfeatures.First,theuser
buildsapersonalprofile.Theyareaskedtosupplycertaininformationaboutthemselvesin
ordertogeneratea‘profile’:essentially,thepublicfaceoftheirexistenceinthecommunity.
Theyadddetailssuchastheirname,age,dateofbirthandhometown,aswellasfavourite
music,televisionprogrammes,booksandfilms,alongsidephotos,tocreateanindividual
account.
Havingcreatedtheprofile,theusercanstarttobuildtheirnetworkbyinvitingothersonthe
sitetobetheir‘friend’,andbyrespondingtofriendrequestsreceivedbyexistingmembers.
Usersperusethenetwork,lookingatfriends’profilesandfriendsoffriends’profilesandsoon.
OnSNSs,interactionbetweenmembersmostobviouslytakesplaceintheformofcomments
andtestimonialswrittenby‘friends’andaddedtotheusers’page.Therearealsofacilitiesfor
postingitemsofinterest,promotingforthcomingeventsandadvertisingitemssuchasspare
rooms.
OnMySpace,theseitemsareaddedtobulletinboards,whicharevisibletoeachindividual
withintheposter’snetwork.Theyarethenoftencopiedbyotherindividualswithinthat
network,re-postedtothebulletinboardinordertoreachmembersofthesecondaryposters’
networks,andsoon.Usingthisfacility,socialnetworkingsiteshavebeenheraldedasan
effectivewayofmobilisingpeoplearoundanissue.IntheUS,forexample,schoolchildren
organisedawide-scaleprotestagainstnewdevelopmentsinimmigrationlawthroughMySpace.
SNSsalsooffercommunicationtoolssuchasemailandinstantmessaging,sothatmemberscan
holdprivateconversationswithothermembers,althoughSNSsarelargelypublicspacesin
whichthemajorityofactivityisvisibletoallmembers.
ThemajorityofSNSs–andcertainlythosethataremostpopularwithyoungpeople–arefree
13 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

touse.However,althoughincomeisnotgenerateddirectlyfromusers,theyhaveaveryhigh
commercialvalue.MySpacewassoldtoNewsCorpfornearlyUS$600millionin2006,whilein
2007Microsoftboughta1.6percentstakeinFaceBookforUS$240million.Suchfiguresare
representativeofthevalueofpaid-foradvertisingonthesite,whichisseenasakeygrowth
area.
Instantmessagingtools
Instantmessaging(IM)isoneofthemostpopularwaysforyoungpeopletocommunicate.Itis
usedfarmoreoftenthanemail,forexample–partlybecauseitcanmorecloselyresemblea
conversation,offeringreal-timecommunicationincontrasttothe‘letter’formatofemail,which
isconsideredmuchmoreformal.Itcanfacilitate‘conversations’betweenseveralpartiesatonce,
andtheyoungpeopleinterviewedinourresearchstatedthattheysometimesparticipatedin
conversationsfeaturingasmanyas20people.
LargenumberofyounginternetusersuseIMtochattofriends.Arecentsurveyshowedthat
82percentofIMpartnerswerefriendsfromschool,incomparisonto48percentwhohadmet
online(Greenfieldetal 2006).ThereisalsoevidencethatthecloserateenagelivestoanIM
partner,themorefrequentlytheywillcommunicatewiththemoverIM(Bonevaetal 2003).
TouseIM,theusermusthaveaworkinginternetconnection.Theysimplydownloadafree
programfromanIMproviderandselectanIMname–whichcanbetheirrealnameora
nickname.Userscommunicatebytypingshortsentencesintotheapplication.Thesearesent
andreceivedalmostinstantaneouslybytherespondent.ThemostpopularIMapplication,AIM,
hasover100millionregisteredusersand53millionactiveusersacrosstheglobe.
ItispossibletolimitthelevelsofcommunicationonIM–forinstancebymarkinginyour
settingsthatyouare‘offline’andthereforeunabletocommunicate.Aswithemail,usersare
alsoabletoblockotherusersfromcontactingthem.
Video-sharingwebsites
Video-sharingwebsitesgiveyoungpeopletheopportunitytobothwatchanduploadvideos,
andalsotoshareelementsofotherSNSs–forexample,allowinguserstocommentonvideos,
buildtheirownprofilesandlinkupwithotherusers.
Themostpopularvideo-sharingwebsite,YouTube,waslaunchedin2005,andin2006was
acquiredbyGoogleforUS$1.65billion,indicatingthelevelofexpectedfuturecommercial
revenuethatwillbegeneratedfromthesite’susers.
Onedoesnothavetobearegistereduserofthesitetowatchvideos,butsomelevelofpersonal
detailmustbesuppliedinordertouploadcontent.Userswhocontributecontent‘tag’their
videoswithrelevantphrases,makingiteasiertosearchformaterial.Dependingonwhichvideo
youarewatching,linkstorelatedcontentappearonthescreen.Thesearedeterminedbythe
tagsappliedbythepersonwhouploadedthecontent.
YouTubehasplayedanincreasinglyactiveroleinpubliclife,withdebatesforthe2008US
presidentialracepostedonthesite,andtheUKForeignOfficerecentlyannouncingitwould
developitsownYouTubechannel.However,despitetheobviousbenefitsthatthesitecan
provide,ithasneverbeenveryfarfromcontroversyandoutrage.Thesitehasbeenthecentre
ofconcernsaroundissuessuchasso-called‘happyslapping’(inwhichphysicalattacksare
filmedonamobilephonethensharedonline),violenceamongyoungpeople,andcyberbullying
bothofpupilsandteachers.Thesitehasbeenblockedinseveralcountries,includingThailand,
UnitedArabEmiratesandIran,duetoanti-governmentmessagesorthepresenceofadult
contentdeemedunsuitable.
Sinceitsinception,YouTubehasprovedphenomenallypopular,andanestimated65,000videos
areuploadeddaily(Chaetal 2007).Thesitehasalsoresultedinthecreationofanumberof
‘YouTubecelebrities’–forinstance‘LonelyGirl15’,whichwaspresentedasavideoblogofa
normal15-year-oldgirlbutwaslaterdiscoveredtobethecreationofaNewZealandactressand
filmproducers.
14 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

1.Fromconsumptiontoengagement:livinglifeonline
Themedialandscapehasrecentlyundergoneadrasticchangeasweshiftfromanaloguetodigital.
Just25yearsago,Britishtelevisionviewershadachoiceofthreechannels–BBC1,BBC2andITV.In
thequartercenturysincetheintroductionofChannel4,thenumberofchannelshasmultipliedto
morethan400(Ofcom2007b).
Itisworthrememberingthisinordertoemphasisehowvastlyadolescentexperiencesofmediahave
changed–particularlywhenwecontrasttheexperiencesoftoday’sgenerationofadults(and
policymakers)againsttheexperiencesofyouthtoday.Aswellasincreasedcontentandchoice,digital
technologiesofferopportunitiesforamoreinteractiveexperience,intermsofengagingbothwith
contentandwithotherusers.Thedistinctionbetweenconsumerandproducerisrapidlyblurring,as
aredistinctionsbetweenpublicandprivate,asconversationsandsocialisationincreasinglytakeplace
onlineandencompasscontentofanaudio-visualnature.
Foryoungpeopletoday,theinternet(andtheopportunitiesitoffers)isnotanoveltybutpartof
everydaylife.Itisdifficultforadults,parentsandpolicymakerstofullycomprehend.Itislikelythey
canstillrememberatimebeforebroadbandaccesswasnearuniversal,andbeforethemobilephone
wasseenasanessentialpartofeverydaylife.Assuch,thereisatendencyforadultstoreactto
children’sexperienceoftechnologyinoneoftwoways(Buckingham2005a).
Thefirstoftheseistoromanticiseorover-emphasiseyoungpeople’stechnologicalexpertise,giving
themlabelssuchas‘theMySpaceGeneration’or‘digitalmillennials’andpresumingthatyoungpeople
show‘natural’adaptabilitytonewtechnologicaldevelopments.Indeed,thisisacommonfeatureof
politicians’speeches.Forexample,speakingin1999,TonyBlairadmittedthathischildrenwerefar
moreproficientinusingtheinternetthanhewasandthatheoftenfeltasenseof‘mild,sometimes
notsomild,humiliation’watchingthemsurftheweb(Blair1999).
Thesecondtendencyistodepictyoungpeopleasbeingmademorevulnerablebydigital
technologies,underincreasedthreatfrompredatorsandthereforeinneedofmuchgreaterprotection.
Arecentparliamentarydebatesuggestedtheinternetshouldoffer‘twochoicesofcontent,onefor
adultsandoneforchildren’byblacklistingcertainsitestobeupdatedhourlybyan‘internetstandards
authority’(Hansard2008).Often,thesetwocontradictoryattitudesareheldsimultaneously.
Often,adultsfearforyoungpeople’ssafetypreciselybecausetheirexpertisemeanstheyareableto
manipulatetechnologiesinwaysthatfewadultscomprehend.Thisgenerationaldivideraiseshuge
questionsastohowcapableparentsaretomakeinformeddecisionsaboutthepotentialimpactofthis
interactionintheshortterm–forinstance,inconsideringtheimpactonyoungpeople’simmediate
well-beingandlonger-termpsychosocialdevelopment.Asaresult,wemustconsiderwhetherand
wherepublicpolicyshouldfillthisgapintheinterim.Butfromalonger-termperspective,weshould
alsoquestiontheextenttowhichsuchinterventionwillcontinuetobenecessary.Oncethecurrent
generationofyouthmovesintoparenthood,thepresentgenerationgapmaybecomelessstark,and
theroleforpolicymaywellbedifferent.
Nonetheless,atpresentitisimportantthatpublicpolicyisformedwithoutrelyingonthebasiseither
ofromanticnotionsofyoungpeople’scompetenceoronfearoftheunknown–inthiscase,young
people’sactivitiesonline.Toavoidthesetraps,wemustseektounderstandwhen,whereandhow
oftenyoungpeopleaccesstheinternet,theenvironmentalandsocialcircumstancesinwhichtheydo
so,andhowthisactivitychangesovertimeasyoungpeopleenterdifferentlifestages.Thiswillenable
ustojudgewhereyoungpeoplearelikelytoencounterthegreatestrisk,andwhererisksareminimal.

Youngpeopleandthemedia
Therelationshipbetweenyoungpeopleandthemediahasexperiencedtwosignificantchangesover
thepastfewdecadesthatrelatetoconcernsregardingchildrenandyoungpeople’svulnerabilityand
well-being.Theserelateto:
• Increasedaccesstomediadevices
15 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

• Increasedtime–andincreasedunsupervisedtime–spentaccessingmedia.
Wewillnowlookateachoftheseinturn.
Accesstomediadevices
Youngpeoplenowhaveaccesstoasophisticatedrangeofnewmediatoolsatincreasinglyyoung
ages.Mobilephonesareparticularlypervasiveamongyoungpeople.Itisestimatedthatjustoverhalf
often-year-oldsand70percentof11-year-oldsownamobilephone(YouGov2006).Meanwhile,80
percentof12-to15-year-oldshaveone(Ofcom2006a).Ofcourse,accesstoamobilephonenow
affordsmorethanjusttheabilitytocallorsendtextmessages.Phonesnowcomewithdigitalcameras
orvideocamerasattached.Manycanalsoprovideaccesstoradio,TVandtheinternet.
Fourinfive5-to15-year-oldshaveaccesstotheinternetathome(DCSF2007).Homebroadband
connectionshavenowovertakendial-upconnectionsintheUK,enablingfasteraccesstomore
sophisticatedaudio-visualcontent(Ofcom2007b).However,thehomecomputerisnottheonlyplace
throughwhichtheinternetcanbeaccessed:schools,librariesandinternetcafésprovideplacesof
accesswhiletheinternetisbecomingincreasinglymobile,withwirelessaccess,doingawaywiththe
needforconnectionsfixedtoaparticularplace.Neitheristhecomputertheonlydevicethrough
whichtheinternetcanbeaccessed:thisisnowpossibleviadigitalTV,mobilephoneandvideogame
consoles.
Box1.1illustratestheextentofyoungpeople’spotentialaccess.
Timespentaccessingmedia
Officialfiguresstatethatyoungpeoplespendonaverageof25.5hoursaweekconsumingaudio-
visualmedia(includingtelevision,DVDs,radio,internetcontentorusinggamesconsoles).The
majorityofthistimeisspentwatchingtelevision,whileyoungpeoplereporttheyspendanaverageof
6.2hoursaweekontheinternet(Ofcom2006a).
Itisworthnotingthatthisfigureisbothself-reported,andwascalculatedpriortothesocial
networkingrevolutionthathasrecentlytakenoffinboththeUSandUK.Sincethen,youngpeople
havereportedthattheyvisitsocialnetworkingsitesanduseInstantMessengerservicesatleastonce
aday,andspendanaverageofonehoureachnightusinginstantmessagingtechnology(Lenhardtet
al 2007).Infact,ourresearchindicatesthatyoungpeoplespendbetweenthreeandfourhoursa
nightonlineusingtheseservices.
Youngpeoplealsohaveincreasingopportunitytoaccessmediaunsupervised,whichhasraised
concernsabouttheirabilitytoaccessage-inappropriatematerial.Thisreflectswidertrendsin
socialisation,withyoungpeopleintheUKspendinglesstimeinvolvedin‘family’activitiesthan
previously(Margoetal 2006).

Box1.1:Youngpeople’saccesstomediadevices
Accesstomediadevices(ages8-15)
80%haveaccesstotheinternetathome
72%havedigitalTVathome
65%havetheirownmobilephone(49%of8-11sand82%of12-15s)
50%ownagamesconsole,afurtherthird(34%)onebelongingtothehousehold.(Sources:DCSF2007,Ofcom2006)
Accessoutsidethehome(ages9-19)
99%ofUKschoolshaveaninternetconnection
92%haveusedtheinternetatschool
64%ofchildrenhaveaccessedtheinternetoutsidehomeorschool.Ofthese,17%haveaccessedthenetviamobile,
6%viagameconsoleand4%viadigitalTV.
Source:Ofcom2006
16 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Ofcom’smedia-literacyresearchreportsthat73percentof8-to11-year-oldshaveatelevisionin
theirbedroom.Acrossallchildrenaged8-15,almostonequarter(23percent)saytheymostlywatch
televisionontheirown.Thisfigureishigherfor11-15yearolds(Ofcom2006a).Viewingisnot
restrictedtopre-watershedtimes,evenamongyoungeragegroups:28percentof6-to8-year-olds
and49percentof9-to11-year-oldsclaimtowatchTVintheirroomsafter9pm(Livingstone2002).
Arecentsurveyclaimedthatoneinfourteenagersfallasleepwhilewatchingtelevisionlateatnightin
theirbedrooms(SleepCouncil2007).
Incomparison,only13percentof12-to15-year-oldsandjust3percentof8-to11-year-oldshave
internetaccessintheirbedroom(Ofcom2006a).Instead,thehomecomputertendstobeplacedina
communalarea,suchasthelivingroom.Nonetheless,twoinfive(40percent)of8-11sandover
two-thirds(71percent)of12-15ssaytheymostlyusetheinternetontheirownathome.
Whileaccessisunsupervised,thisdoesnotmeanitiswithoutrestrictions.Threequarters(73percent)
ofparentsof8-15yearoldssaytheyhaverulesabouttheirchild’sTV,videoandDVDviewing.
Perhapsunsurprisingly,thefigureismuchhigherfortheinternet:95percentofparentsof8-11year
oldsand78percentofparentsof12-15yearoldssaytheyhaverulesinplaceregardingtheirchild’s
access.Thesemostlyrelatetowhatcontenttheycanaccess(Ofcom2006a).
Buttheseresultsdirectlycontradictwithevidenceprovidedbyyoungpeoplethemselves.Inippr’sown
research,themajorityofyoungpeoplereportednoparentalrestrictionsontheiruseoftheinternet
whatsoever,andmanyclaimedthattheirparentsdidnotunderstandtheironlineactivities:
‘Somethingstheydon’tunderstandandtheyaskmetoexplainittothembuttheystill
don’tunderstand.’(Girl,13,ABC11)
‘Mymumwillasksometimes“Isitsafe?”,butshedoesn’treallyknow.’(Girl,16,ABC1)
Theonlyrestrictionsrecognisedwerelimitstotheamountoftimeyoungpeoplewereabletospend
online,becauseofcompetingclaimsfromothermembersofthefamilywantingtousethecomputer.
Asimilarpictureemergeswhenweconsideraccessatschool.Despitethepresenceoffiltersandother
safetymechanismstorestrictaccesstoselectedinternetcontent,youngpeoplereportedside-
steppingtheserestrictionswithrelativeease.Schoolrestrictionswerelargelyseenaschallengesto
overcome,ratherthanbeingintheinterestsofyoungpeoplethemselves:
‘Wehaverestrictionsatschoolbutwecanjustgetanadministrator’saccountandtake
themoff.’(Boy,14,C2DE)
‘Restrictionsstopyougoingonbadsites,likegamessitesandstuff.Ifyoutakethem
offyoucangoonanything.’(Boy,14,C2DE)
Thedisappearanceofanysemblanceofa‘watchwithMother’culturehas,ofcourse,raisedconcerns.
Despitethefactthattelevisioncontentisheavilyregulated,protectionofyoungpeoplehasalways
reliedtosomeextentonparentalsupervision,andonrulesaboutappropriateconsumptionbeing
appliedinthefamilyhome.‘Bedroomculture’andtheindividualnatureofinternetaccessmeansthat
thispartofthesystemisbreakingdowninmanyhomes,withparentsfeelingconcernedbutfinding
themselvesunabletoidentifyanappropriateresponse.

Driversofcurrenttrends
Anumberoffactorshavedriventhecurrenttrendsinyoungpeople’suseofmedia.Theseinclude
perceptionsoftheeducationalbenefitsofnewtechnology,useoftechnologytoincreaseyoung
people’ssafety,andeconomicfactors.
Educationalbenefits
Whilesocietymaybebemoaningthedominanceofmediainyoungpeople’slives,itisworth
rememberingthatthesefigureshavebeendrivenbyfactorsotherthansimplyyoungpeople’sdesire

1.SeeAppendix3fordefinitionsofsocialgroupabbreviations
17 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

fornewtechnologies.TheGovernmenthaspromotedtheeducationalbenefitofinformationand
communicationtechnology(ICT),surroundingthisclaimwith‘knowledgeeconomy’rhetoric(Selwyn
2003)andafinancialcommitmenttothetuneof£6billiontoensurethatallschoolshavebroadband
connectionstoescapethe‘technologicaldarkages’.
ICTispresumedtoimprovelearningintwoways:first,byequippinglearnerswithskillsthatare
becomingincreasinglynecessaryforemployment(Sutherlandetal 1999)andsecond,byenabling
themtoaccesstheinternetandthustoarepositoryofinformationandawidevarietyoflearning
resources.Indiscussionsabouttheeducationalbenefitsoftheinternet,avisionoftheinternetasa
‘library’ofresourcesisdominant(Sandvig2006)andunderlinesmuchoftherationalebehindpublic
provision–forexample,inlibrariesthemselvesaswellasUKOnlineCentressituatedacrossthe
country,whichencourageuserstofindinformationabouttheirlocalpublicservices.
Theactualeducationalbenefitoftheinternetisthesubjectofmuchdebate.Therearefears,butlittle
evidence,thatextendedusecancauseattentiondeficitdisorder(Prensky2007),whileresearchisjust
beginningtoconsiderthelong-termimpactofinternetuseonourwaysoflearning(Dealand
Sharples2007).Withinformationreadilyavailableattheclickofamouse,theneedtocommitcertain
factstomemoryiswaning.Forexample,someyoungpeoplearenowdisbelievingofanageinwhich
peopleactivelyrecalledphonenumbersratherthanquicklyaccessingthemonone’smobilephone
SIMcard(Prensky2007).
Meanwhile,informationisbeginningtobedeliveredincreasinglythroughvisualmeans.Sofar,there
hasbeennosubsequentdropinliteracyrates,butthereisevidencethatenjoymentofreadingis
declining(NationalLiteracyTrust2006).Information,deliveredmorequicklyandconciselythanever
before,isnowaccessedfromapatchworkofsitesandsources,oftenwithoutthecontextual
frameworkthatlongertextscanprovide(Hansard2006).Thishasraisedconcernsnotonlyabout
youngpeople’stendencytoacceptinformationatfacevalue(Faceretal 2003)butalsoaboutits
potentialimpactontheircapacitytodevelopresourcessuchascriticalskillsandproblem-solving
abilities(Moncke1998).
However,thenotionofICTasatoolthatprovidesyoungpeoplewithessentialeducationalbenefitsis
onethatisstronglyrecognisedbyparents,themajorityofwhombelieveaccesstoacomputerwill
helptheirchildachievebettereducationalresults(LivingstoneandBober2005).Indeed,parentsoften
citeeducationasthecentralbenefitoftheinternet(Buckingham2002),andthisextendstochildren
undersixyearsold:72percentofparentsofinfantsandtoddlerssaidthattheythinkthatthe
computerhelpswiththeirchildren’slearning(Rideoutetal 2003).
Safety
Asecondimportantdriverofthetake-upoftechnologicaldevicesamongyoungpeopleistheview
thattheycanincreasesafety.Forexample,whilethemajorityofyoungpeopleownamobilephone,
theydonot,byandlarge,paythebill(Ofcom2006a).Forthemostpart,mobilephonesare
introducedintoyoungpeople’slivesbyparentsandguardians,forsafetyreasons.Ownershipof
mobilephonesincreasesdramaticallyatthetimewhenyoungpeoplebeginsecondaryeducation–a
stageatwhichtheyarelikelytotraveltoandfromschoolwithoutparentalsupervisionandaregiven
increasingfreedomtostayoutlaterandlonger(ibid).
Themobilephoneisnowseenasakeymonitoringandsupervisiontoolinparenting,withparents
feelingthatyoungpeoplearesignificantlysaferwithonethanwithoutone(DevittandRoker2007).
Thisisdespiteconcernsrelatingtomobilephonetheft,happyslappingandtext-bullyingandthe
impactofmobilephonesonindividuals’health.
Theroleofthemediaandcommunicationdevicesinkeepingyoungpeoplesafeisnotlimitedto
mobilephones.ThepredominanceofTVinyoungpeople’slivesisoftenseenasadirectresultofa
movetowardsamorerisk-aversesociety.Parentsreportthattheybelievethesafetyoftheirchild’s
environmenthaschangedsignificantlysincetheythemselveswereyoung,andthatasaresultthey
havecurtailedthefreedomtheygivetheirchildren(DCSF2007).Today,childrenhavefewer
opportunitiestoplayoutside,andtheTVisincreasinglyusedasatime-consumingsubstituteor‘baby
18 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

sitter’thatkeepschildrenoccupiedandsafefromharmwhilerequiringminimaladultsupervision
(Livingstone2002).
Inrelationtotheinternet,thesafetydebatehasbeenacontroversialone.Onitsfirstintroduction,
therewassomediscussionoftherolethatnewtechnologycouldplayin‘bringingtheoutsidein’–for
example,providing‘virtualreality’accessenablingyoungpeopletoexperiencesituationswithinan
environmentofrelativesafety,andsubjecttoparentalsupervision.However,astheinternetmoved
towardsstrongeruseasasocialtool,concernsbegantomountregardingchildren’svulnerabilitywhen
theyaccessedonlinespaces.
Economictrends
Finally,economictrendshavedrivenafurtherfundamentalchangeinchildren’smediaexperiences,and
withinhouseholdpractices.Mediagoodsandaccesstotheinternethavebecomemoreaffordable.For
instance,thepriceofabroadbandconnectionfellby57percentbetween2003and2005(Ofcom
2006b).Competitioninthemarketislikelytodrivepriceslowerstilloverthecomingyears.
Computershavebeensubjecttoasimilardeclineinprice,whilethesaturationofthemobilephone
markethasledmobilephoneoperatorstodevelopcheaperconsumerofferingsthaneverbefore.Pre-
payandcontractoptionsnowregularlyincludeincentivessuchasfreeeveningandweekendcalls,and
freetextmessaging.

Impactonsocialcapitalandwell-being
Policymakershavebegantorealisetheimportanceofsecuringemotionalwell-beingamongyoung
peopleaboveandbeyonddeliveringoutcomescommonlyconsideredasbeingwithintheresponsibility
ofthestate(forexample,goodhealth,educationandsafety)(DCSF2007,MargoandSodha2007).
Thedebatearoundtherelationshipbetweenmediaandyoungpeople’swell-beinghastendedto
focusonthepossibilityofcontentcausingharmordistress.Withtheinternetanddigitalmedia,this
continuestobeaconcern.However,increasinglevelsofmediausehaveraisedadditionalconcerns
thattheamountoftimespentusingmediacanitselfhaveanegativeeffect–bothdirectly,interms
ofconsequencessuchaschildhoodobesity,andindirectly–ontheassumptionthattimespent
consumingmediatakesplaceattheexpenseofotheractivities,particularlyface-to-faceinteraction
(Krautetal 1998,Nieetal 2002).Thisissometimescalled‘thedisplacementhypothesis’.
However,acontrastingtheorysuggeststhatinternetusecanactuallybebeneficialforyoungpeople’s
well-being–forinstance,byhelpingtoconsolidateandcementsocialrelationships,andbyproviding
opportunitiestoexpandknowledgeandconfidenceaboutparticularissuesoractivities(forexample,
sexualityordisability).Thistheoryhasgainedprominenceduringrecentyearsasinternetusehas
becomemoreandmoredirectedtowardssocialisation–particularlyforyoungergenerations,andis
sometimesknownas‘thestimulationhypothesis’.
Below,weexaminethemeritsofboththedisplacementhypothesisandthestimulationhypothesis,in
ordertoconsiderhowdifferentaspectsofinternetuseaffectrelationshipswithfriendsandpeersand,
ultimately,impactonyoungpeople’swell-being.Wethentakealonger-termperspective,toconsider
theimpactsofsustainedinternetuseandconstantconnectivityonthepsychosocialdevelopmentof
youngpeopleandthetransitionfromchildhoodtoadulthood.
Thedisplacementhypothesis
Thedisplacementhypothesisstatesthattimespentwithmediatakesplaceattheexpenseofother
socialorcommunityactivities,thereforeincreasingisolationandhavinganegativeimpactonsocial
capitalandwell-being.
Televisionhasbeenviewedasthechiefculpritinthecontextofdecliningsocialcapital(Putnam
2000),andindeedtherearestrongassociationsbetweentimespentinfrontofthetelevisionand
levelsofisolationanddisengagementfromciviclife(ibid).Ithasalsobeenblamedmorewidelyfora
retreatfromthepublictowardsthedomesticsphere,furthercontributingtoadeclinein‘public
culture’(Sennett1977).
19 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Wheretelevisionisconcerned,theseargumentshavebeenhotlycontested(forexample,Norris2001,
Dahlgren1996).Nonetheless,earlyresearchsawsimilarthinkingtransferredtotheinternet:itwas
arguedthattheindividualisednatureofinternetaccess,alongwiththeabilitytocontactpeoplefrom
acrosstheworld,wouldencouragetheformationofnew,weaktiesattheexpenseofexisting,
strongerones(Granovetter1973).Theimplicationisthatthiswouldhaveanegativeimpacton
communityandwell-being,becauseweaktiesarepresumedtoprovidelesssocialsupport(Krackhardt
1992,Wellmanetal 2001).
Thesefearswerefrequentlyaddressedbyearlyliteratureonthesubject,withKrautetal (1998)
identifyingtheso-called‘internetparadox’:theironythatatechnologydesignedtomakeusmore
connectedthaneverbeforeactuallyincreasesourisolation.
Thereissomeevidencethatlevelsofusethatcouldequatetocompulsiveinternetusemayhavethis
effect.AccordingtoresearchonadolescentMySpaceusers(Rosen2006),theaverageteenageuser
spendsabouttwohoursadayonthesite,fivedaysaweek.Internetuseofthisintensityhasbeen
showntocorrelatewithlowself-esteemandhigherlevelsofdepression(Koetal 2007).Several
researchexerciseshavefoundyoungpeopledescribingtheaddictivequalitiesoftheinternetand
thesesitesinparticular(Chouetal 2000,Young2004,Johanssonetal 2004).Thisisbackedupby
ourownresearch,wheregroupparticipantscommented:
‘It’sgoodandit’sbad,likethere’sgoodaspectsaboutitbutitcangetannoyingafter
awhile,likeitcanjustgetreallyaddictive.’(Boy,18,C2DE)
‘Iwanttospendlesstime’coswhatIdoonitisjustreallypointless–likeMySpaceis
justreallyaddictive.’(Girl,17,C2DE)
Thereisalsoevidencethatinternetuseisnegativelyrelatedtoadolescentperceptionsaboutquality
offamilyrelationships(Krautetal 1998).However,furtherstudieshaveeitherfoundnodirectlink
betweeninternetuseandwell-being(Grossetal 2002)orhavecontradictedthedisplacement
hypothesisaltogether(ValkenburgandPeter2007).
Amajorreasonfordifferingoutcomesisthatearlierstudiesoftentreatedtheinternetasaone-
dimensionalvariableandneglectedtoconsiderthevarietyofusestowhichtheplatformcouldbeput.
Whatismore,themostprominentlyusedfunctionsoftheinternethavechangedovertime,from
primarilyentertainmentinthe1990s(ValkenburgandSoeters2001)tothedominanceof
interpersonalcommunicationstoday(Gross2004,Lenhardtetal 2007).
Thus,whileMesch(2003)findsalinkbetweeninternetsurfing–thatis,justlookingatsitesrather
thanactivelyengagingthroughchattingandcommenting–andnegativewell-being,thesamestudy
alsoidentifiesapositivelinkbetweenwell-beingandusingIM.
Thestimulationhypothesis
Thestimulationhypothesisarguesthattheinternetcanbebeneficialtowell-beingbyhelpingto
consolidateorpromoterelationships.Followingthedominanceofthedisplacementhypothesis,later
researchledtotheadoptionofasecondtheory.Thestimulationhypothesisarguedthatinternetuse–
particularlyifthisinvolvesinterpersonalcommunications–canhaveapositiveimpactonwell-being,
andcanalsoservetoheightenthewell-beingofpeoplewhoarefeelinglonely,byallowingthemto
sociallycompensatethroughuseofonlineconnections(ValkenburgandPeter2007).
Thestimulationhypothesisandthedisplacementtheoryarebasedonargumentsthatareessentially
thesameasoneanother.Bothstatethatonlinecommunicationaffectsadolescentwell-beingby
affectingthetimespentwithexistingfriends(fordisplacementtheoriststhistimeisthoughtto
decrease,whileforstimulationtheorists,itisthoughttoincrease)andthequalityofthesefriendships.
Animportantdimensionofwell-beinginyoungpeopleisthequalityandstrengthofrelationships
withfamilyandpeers(UNICEF2007)andthequalityofone’ssocialnetworkhasbeenshowntobe
oneofthemostimportantstatisticalpredicatorsofwell-being(PinquartandSorenson2000).
Adolescentswithhighqualityfriendshipsaremoresociallycompetent,self-confidentandhappier
thanadolescentswithoutsuchfriendships(HartupandStevens1997).
20 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Thereissomeevidencethatinternetusemaybenegativelyrelatedtoadolescentperceptionsabout
qualityoffamilyrelationships(Krautetal 1998).However,morerecentresearchshowsthattime
spentonlinecannegativelyimpacttimespentwithfamiliesbutdoesnotnegativelyimpactfamily
communication(LeeandChae2007).Thereisalsoextensiveevidencethatcommunicationtoolssuch
asIMandsocialnetworkingsiteslargelyservetoconsolidatelocal,existingrelationships(Livingstone
2004)andareusedprimarilytokeepupwithclosefriendsandfamilymembers(Grossetal 2002).
UseofIMdominatestimespentonline:ippr’sownresearchhasindicatedthatyoungpeopleare
spendingatleastacoupleofhoursontheinterneteveryevening,usingsocialnetworkingsitesorIM
inordertomaintaincontactwithfriends–boththoselivinglocallyandotherssomedistanceaway.
However,internetusealsoincreasesthelikelihoodofcommunicatingwithstrangersonline:inasurvey
ofadolescentIMusers,58percentreportedthattheyatleastsometimescommunicatedwithpeople
theyonlyknewontheinternet,and45percentreportedthattheyatleastsometimestalkedwith
peopleontheinternetwhotheydidnotknowatall(Grossetal 2002).Thisbehaviourwastypically
carriedoutby‘lonelier’individuals,andwasrelatedtonegativewell-being.
So,whileenablingclosefriendstostayclose,theideathattheinternetcanenablelonelyindividuals
tosociallycompensateforlifeofflineisflawed.Whilelonelinesscanpromptcommunicationwith
strangers(Grossetal 2002),andpeoplewhofeellessvaluedinface-to-facecommunicationaremore
stronglymotivatedtocommunicateonline(PapacharissiandRubin2000),theseactivitiesdonot
deliverresultsintermsoflife-satisfactionandwell-being.
Foradolescents,thisisaparticularlyimportantfactor.Adolescencehasbeencharacterisedasatimeof
increasedloneliness,duringwhichlevelsofself-esteemandwell-beingareextremelyvolatileandmost
likelytobeaffectedbyenvironmentalinfluences(Valkerburgetal 2006).Itisalsoaparticularly
difficulttimeforadolescentsintheUK:accordingtorecentresearch,UKchildrenhaveworsewell-
beingthantheirpeersin20otherindustrialisedcountriesinthedevelopedworld(UNICEF2007).
Significantly,theUKscoreslowestwhenitcomestochildrenfindingtheirpeers‘kindandhelpful’:
justover40percentdoso,placingtheUKfirmlyatthebottomofthetable(ibid).Thisfactoralone
couldraisetheimportanceandindividualvaluethatyoungpeopleplaceoninternetcommunications
–inturnraisingfearsabouttheirgrowinginfluence,butalsoprovidingopportunitiestooffera
popularroutetotrustedinformation,counsellingandsupportwheretherightservicesareoffered.
Long-termeffectsofconstantconnectivity
Erikson’smodelofpsychosocialdevelopment(Erikson1950)identifieseightphasesofpsychosocial
development(outlinedinTable1.1,nextpage).Eachphaseischaracterisedina‘psychosocialcrisis’,
whichmustberesolvedbeforethechildcanmoveontothenextdevelopmentphase.
AscanbeseenfromTable1.1,duringadolescence,the‘psychosocialcrisis’takestheformofidentity
versusroleconfusion–atimewhenyoungadultsarebeginningtoderiveanindependentidentity,
developingasenseofself,independenceandcontrolwhilesimultaneouslybeingveryconcerned
abouthowtheyappeartoothersandpreoccupiedwith‘fittingin’.
Themediaandcommunicationtoolsplayanimportantroleinmeetingboththeseneeds:first,by
underlyingyoungpeople’stransitiontowardsgainingautonomyfromtheirparentsandenabling
formulationofindependentrelationshipswithpeers(ManteandPiris2002),andsecond,byenabling
youngpeopletoparticipateinandidentifywithagroupofpeers.IMisaveryimportanttoolinthis
respect:alargepartofitsappealisthesensethatitcreatesofbeingpartofalargecommunityof
friends.ResearchsuggeststhatitisthequantityofrelationshipsformedonIM,ratherthantheir
quality,thatteenagersvaluemost.
Butidentityformationispresumedtorequiresomedegreeof‘alonetime’(Csikszentmihalyietal
1993),andspendingtimealoneisalsoadevelopmentalnecessityandakeyfeatureofprogressionto
thenextstageinpsychosocialdevelopment:youngadulthood(Erikson1950,BuchholzandChinlund
1994).Alonenessandsolitudecanhavepositiveeffectsonotherareasoflifetoo.Csikszenmihalyiet
al (1993:90)postulated,‘talentedstudentsaremoreabletotoleratesolitudeandarethereforealone
21 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Table1.1:Erikson’seightstagesofpsychosocialdevelopment
Stage Ages Basicconflict Importantevent Summary
1.Oral- Birthto12-18 Trustvs.mistrust Feeding Theinfantmustformaloving,trusting
sensory months relationshipwiththecaregiver,orrisks
developingasenseofmistrustandinsecurity.
2.Muscular- 18months Autonomyvs. Toilettraining Thechild’senergiesaredirectedtowardthe
anal to3years shame/doubt developmentofphysicalskills,includingwalking,
grasping.Ifnotencouragedandsupported,the
childrisksexperiencingshameanddoubt.
3.Locomotor 3-6years Initiativevs. Independence Thechildcontinuestobecomemoreassertive
guilt andtotakemoreinitiative,butmaybetoo
forceful,whichneedstobehandledsensitively.
4.Latency 6-12years Industryvs. School Thechildmustbehelpedtomeetdemandsto
inferiority learnnewskillsorriskasenseofinferiority,
failureandincompetence.
5.Adolescence 12-18years Identityvs. Peerrelationships Theteenagermustachieveasenseofidentityin
roleconfusion occupation,sexroles,politics,andreligion.
6.Young 19-40years Intimacyvs. Loverelationships Theyoungadultmustdevelopintimate
adulthood isolation relationshipsorsufferfeelingsofisolation.
7.Middle 40-65years Generativityvs. Parenting Eachadultmustfindsomewaytosatisfyand
adulthood stagnation supportthenextgeneration.
8.Maturity 65todeath Egointegrity Reflectiononand Theculminationisastrongsenseofagencyand
vs.despair acceptanceof fulfilment.
one’slife
Source:AdaptedfromErikson1950,1958,1964,1968,citedinMargoetal 2006

moreoften.Itisalsolikelythatthemotivationtodeveloptalent-relatedskillsrequiresthattheybe
alone’.Withoutsolitude,learning,thinkingandinnovationmaysuffer(Moustakas1989,Storr1988).
However,foryoungpeople,thereisoftenafinedividinglinebetween‘aloneness’and‘loneliness’,
andadolescentsarethoughttofeellonelinessmorekeenlythanpeopleinotheragegroups(Goswick
andJones1982).Individualswhoareneithercapableofmaintainingasocialnetworknorspending
timealoneareparticularlylikelytofeellonely(Bucholzetal 1999).
Whilethereissparseevidencetosuggestthatinternetuse(particularlycommunicativeinternetuse)
causesloneliness,thereareearlyindicationsthattheinternet–alongwithothercommunicationtools
–canimpactonyoungpeople’sabilitytospendtimealone.Forexample,youngpeopleinour
deliberativeworkshopsreportedhighlevelsofusewhichtheysometimesrecognisedaspointlessor
uninteresting,butnonethelessmaintainedbecauseofwhattheydescribedastheaddictivenatureof
constantconnectivity.Othersadmittedtoleavingtheirmobilephonesonovernightincasethey
receivedatextmessageduringthisperiod.Thisraisesconcernsnotonlybecauseitemphasisesthe
extenttowhichyoungpeoplewishtoremainconnectedatalltimesoftheday,butalsobecauseit
caninterruptsleep,animportantsourceofrestorativesolitude(Storr1988).
Theimpactofconstantconnectivityonfuturepsychosocialdevelopmentisdifficulttoassess,
primarilybecausenoneofthelongitudinalstudiescarriedouttodatehavestretchedbeyondsix
months(Meerkerk2007).Evidencefrom2003doessuggestthatwhileadolescentsarebyfarthe
highestusersofIM,levelofusedeclinesrapidlywithage(Bonevaetal 2003).However,wecannot
concludethattoday’sdemandforconstantconnectivitywillnecessarilydeclineinthesameway.
Internettoolshavechangedsorapidlyduringthefiveyearsprecedingthisresearchthatitisunclear
whetherthesameeffectwillcontinuetooccur.
Andthingswillcontinuetochange.Forexample,atpresent,adolescentsremainthegroupdisplaying
highestlevelsofinternetuse.Butevidencesuggeststhat,intheUSatleast,the2-5-year-oldage
groupisthefastest-growinggroupofusers(CorporationforPublicBroadcasting2003).AUSsurvey
22 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

foundthat48percentofchildrenaged0-6haveusedacomputer,and30percenthaveused
computergames(Rideoutetal 2003).Withconstantconnectivityreachingever-youngeragegroups,
itsimpactmaybemoredramaticinthefuture–particularlyintermsofforcingchildrentowardslater
stagesofpsychosocialdevelopmentatever-earlierages.

Summary
Fromwhatweknownow,wecanonlyconcludethatinternetusecanhavegoodandbadeffects–on
self-esteem,lonelinessandlife-satisfaction–andthatdespiteearlytechno-utopianismordoom-
mongering,itisfairtosaythat‘theinternetbyitselfisnotamaineffectorcauseofanything’
(McKennaandBargh2000).Intheshortterm,itisneitherapanaceaforsocialisolationnoradirect
sourceofproblems.Instead,itislikelythatthecostsandbenefitswillbemitigatedonanindividual
basisandwilldependonthepersonalitiesofindividualusers,andthetypeofinternetuse.
Alongsidetechnologicalchanges,therehasundoubtedlybeenaculturalshiftunderpinnedbytherise
insocialnetworkingsitesaimedatallsectorsofsociety,whichsuggeststhatconnectednessisgood,
whilesolitude,orlackofconnectivityisnot.Inthelongterm,theseculturalshifts(causedbythe
increasedintegrationofinternetandconstantconnectivityintoourlives)arelikelytocontinueapace.
Butequally,weshouldnotactasifthisisnotsomethingwe,asasociety,areincapableofmanaging
inordertomitigatenegativeeffects.
Theopportunitiesforyoungpeopletosocialiseonlinearehuge,andthiscanhavebothgoodandbad
impacts.Butviewingusageintermsofpositiveandnegativeeffectsismisleading:theinternetisan
interactive,socialentitywithinwhichmanydifferentexperiencestakeplace–learning,interacting,
meeting,consolidatingviewsandexploringfeelingsandideas.Itistimetomovebeyondtherather
tireddebateaboutwhethertheinternetisgoodorbad.Itisboth,anditisverymuchpartoflife.We
nowneedtoconsiderhowwecanprotect,enableanddevelopyoungpeopleusingit.
Thisleadsustoournextkeyconcern.Forthemostpart,socialactivitiesareunmediatedbytheadult
world.Socialisingisanimportantpartofpsychosocialdevelopmentthatenablesyoungpeopleto
begintogainautonomyandformanidentityindependentfromtheirparents.Nonetheless,inthe
contextoftheinternet,unmediatedsocialcontactdoesraiseconcerns.Justaswewouldnotbe
happyaboutyoungpeopleengaginginunsuitableactivitiesoffline,beingexposedtoupsetting
scenesorideaswithoutanadultpresenttohelpthemnavigatetheissueandunderstandtheir
emotionalresponse,thesameistrueonline.Weneedtothinkagainabouthowtobringparents–
particularlyparentsofthecurrentgeneration,whomaybeuniquely‘lockedout’ofthisrealmofsocial
activity–intoapositionofmeasuredauthority.
Althoughsupervisionofonlineactivitiesshouldnotbecomparedwholesaletothesupervisionof
offlineactivities,parentsdohavearoleparticularlyinunderstandingtheimpactofsustained,heavy
internetuseandinprovidinglimitstoensureahealthyrelationshipwithtechnology.Atpresentthere
isclearlyahugegapinparents’understandingofthetypeofactivitiesinwhichyoungpeopleare
engagingonline.Whiletherearesensitivitiesinherentinanyattemptbygovernmenttodefinegood
parenting,parentsmaywellgratefullyreceiveadviceinthisarea–particularlygivenlevelsofparental
concerncoupledwiththeirlackofawarenessofwhatconstitutesgoodandbadinteractiononline.
WheretheGovernmentcanmostusefullyalteritsownbehaviourisinrefrainingfromsupporting
messagesthatsuggestthattechnologyisunquestionably‘good’–particularlyinaneducational
context.Theimpactsoftheinternetarediverse,anditismisleadingtosuggesttoparentsthat
internetaccessaloneisaprerequisiteforacademicsuccess.
Ultimately,weneedtotakeamoresubtleviewofthewaysinwhichtheinternetcanimpactonthe
well-beingofyoungpeople.Whilecontent(addressedinChapter2)remainsasalientconcern,the
extentofinteractionitselfraisesquestionsastohowpublicpolicyshouldrespond.Today’syouthare
tomorrow’sparents,andregulatoryinterventionmaybecomelessnecessaryastimegoesby.However,
thecurrentgapbetweenthelevelofunderstandingofyoungpeopleandthatoftheirparentsdoes
suggesttheneedforentitiesoutsideofthefamilytoplayaroleinraisingyouthinanonlineworld.
Thechallengeofencouragingsuchentitiestoengagepositivelywithyoungpeopleonlineisonethat
governmentshouldseektotackle.
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2.Managingrisk:publicprivatelives
Thepreviouschapterfocusedonwhatrecentchanges,intermsofincreasedopportunitytousemedia
forawidearrayoftasks,andtodosounsupervised,havemeantintermsoftheimpactonyoung
people’swell-beingandpsychosocialdevelopment.Thischapterseekstoexplorethisfurtherinterms
ofunderstandingtheopportunitiesforyoungpeopletoaccessharmfulorinappropriatecontentor
engaginginharmfulorinappropriatebehaviour,andtheimpactofdoingso.
Theissueofaccessingharmfulmaterialhascapturedextensivepublicandmediaattention,and
followsalonghistoryofconcernabouttheeffectandinfluenceofmediaonchildren.Webriefly
considerthisissue–particularlybecauseitprovidesinsightsastohowviewingcontentisthoughtto
influencebehaviour.Thisremainsasalientissuewhenwecometoconsideryoungpeoplethemselves
engaginginharmfulbehaviours.Thisisespeciallythecasewhentakingintoaccounttheroleofpeer
influences,whichcannowbeplayedoutinaudiovisualform–forexample,throughvideospostedon
tovideo-sharingwebsites,orthroughinformationsharingwithininternetgroups.
Thisissueisincrediblypertinentnow,astragediessuchasthesuicidestakingplaceinBridgend,
Wales,duringthepast12monthshaveheightenedpublicsensitivitiestothepossibilityofnegative
peerinfluencesinonlineenvironments(Mesure2008).
Butwhiletheremaybeusefulconclusionsthatwecandrawfromboththeeffectsofthetraditional
mediaandtheeffectsofnewwaysofengagingwithandthroughthemedia,itisnonetheless
importantthatwecontinuetodrawadistinctionbetweenthetwo.Weshouldnotexpecttodealwith
thenumberofissuespresentedbyyoungpeople’suseoftheinternetsimplybymonitoringand
removingorblockingcontent:thechangingdynamicbetweenconsumerandproducerdemandsa
moresophisticatedapproach.
Drawingonevidencefromourdeliberativeworkshops,wetakesomeofthemostprominent
challengesfacedbysocietyinthiscontext.Weoutlinewhyconcernsexist,reviewevidencesuggesting
theextenttowhichtheycouldnegativelyimpactyoungpeopleand,finally,setoutthescaleofthe
problemintheUK.Here,wereferbothtoexistingresearchanddataandourownqualitativeresearch.
Finally,weprovideevidence,whereavailable,ofyoungpeople’sownattitudesandperceptions,their
senseofrisk,andhoweffectivetheyseemtobeindealingwiththeproblem.

Theinfluenceofmediacontent,consumptionanduse:changingconcerns
Theinternethasfrequentlybeencharacterisedasakindof‘WildWest’ornewfrontier:adangerous,
unpredictableandlawlessplace(Leyden2007).Insuchanenvironment,thereisagreatdealof
concernaboutthecontentyoungpeoplemayaccessandtheimpactofthisontheiremotionalwell-
beingandbehaviour.
Wespendlargepartsofourdaysconsumingmediaofoneformoranother.Whetherthemorning
newspaper,theradioonthewaytowork,contentaccessedontheinternetthroughoutthedayorthe
televisionintheevening,mediacontentsurroundsusasanearconstant.Itisnowonder,then,that
concernshavebeenraisedformanydecadesaboutitspotentialnegativeinfluence.
Initialtheoriesofmediainfluenceassumedthemediatohaveastronganddirecteffect,andfocused
ontheabilityofmediatextsto‘inject’particularmessagesdirectlyintotheconsciousnessofaudience
members.This‘hypodermicneedle’theorywasformedinresponsetothepropagandacampaignsof
WorldWarII,butwasalsowitnessedinpopularformwhentheinitialradiobroadcastofOrsonWelles’s
‘WaroftheWorlds’causedseverallistenerstopreparefortheforthcomingalieninvasion,treatingthe
playasfactratherthanfiction(KatzandLazarsfeld1955).
Thetheorywasquicklydiscounted,andwascriticisedforaffordingtoomuchinfluencetothemedia
andneglectingotherfactorsthatcontributetotheformationofattitudesandbeliefs–forinstance
family,peersandotherformsofinterpersonalcommunications(Lazarsfeldetal 1968).Italsotended
totreattheaudienceasoneamorphousmasswithnoindividualcharacteristicswhatsoever,each
individualbeingexpectedtoreacttocontentinexactlythesameway(Wright1964).
24 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Amoresophisticatedaccountofmediainfluencehascentredonthewayinwhichcomplexmedia
messagescanframeissuesanddiscoursesandhaveasignificantimpactonsettingsocialagendas
(IyengarandMcGrady2005).Forexample,evidenceshowsthatthereisacloserelationshipbetween
theamountofattentionthemediadevotestoissuesandtheimportancethatpeopleattributeto
theseissues(Funkhouser1973).Thuswhilewehavemovedawayfroma‘strongeffects’modelthat
arguesthatthemediatellsuswhattothink,‘minimaleffects’theoriescontinuetoassertthatthe
mediacantelluswhattothinkabout(Dahlgren1996).
Thenegativeimpactsofthisareexploredincultivationtheory,whichlooksatthewaysinwhichlong-
termconsumptionofmediacancauseviewerstocultivatecertainattitudesorviewsoftheworld
(Gerberetal 1980).Thistheoryhasbeenexploredheavilyinrelationtocrime,andithasbeenshown
thattheprevalenceoftelevisiondetectiveprogrammes,andcrimeinthemediagenerally,cancausea
persontocultivateaviewoftheworldasathreateningandviolentplace(Gerbneretal 1980).
Thesetheoriesweredevelopedinthetimeofmassmedia,andoftenfocusedparticularlyontelevision
asapowerfulvisualmedium.Withdigitalmedia,manyofthesefearsbecomelesssalient.Infact,
thereareconcernsaboutthelossofthepositiveagenda-settingfunctionthatmassmediaoffered–
forinstance,inestablishingasenseofcommunityandcommonidentity.Thisisthoughttobe
disappearingasaudiencesbecomefragmentedduetoincreasedchoice.
Nonetheless,therearestillconcernsthatyoungusersoftheinternetwillcopyeithercontentor
actionsthattheyseeonline,orthatprolongedexposuretocertaintypesofcontentwillhavea
negativeimpactontheirattitudesandbeliefs.Sociallearningtheoryarguesthatbehaviourislearned
throughobservingand,ultimately,mimickingthebehaviourofothers.AsBandura(1977:22)states,
‘learningwouldbeexceedinglylaborious,nottomentionhazardous,ifpeoplehadtorelysolelyon
theeffectsoftheirownactionstoinformthemwhattodo.Fortunately,mosthumanbehaviouris
learnedobservationallythroughmodelling:fromobservingothersoneformsanideaofhownew
behavioursareperformed,andonlateroccasionsthiscodedinformationservesasaguideforaction.’
Thistheoryhasbeenemployedtoexplaininstancesofaggression:researchhasshownthatyoung
consumersofmediaarelikelytocopyaggressiveactsandbehaviourwhereadultsshownengagingin
itarerewardedfortheiractions.Whereviolentactsreceivepunishment,childrenarelesslikelytocopy
thisbehaviour(Banduraetal 1963).Withthepopularityof‘stunt’programmessuchasJackass(MTV)
andPunk’d(MTV)aswellassimilarcontentbeingfoundonvideo-sharingwebsites,concernsarose
thatyoungpeoplewouldviewthisandseektoemulatedisplayedbehaviour(Virtue2002).
However,experimentsthoughttoestablishthistheoryinthemediacontexthavebeencriticisedfor
focusingonshort-termeffectsandforfailingtocapturewhattheinfluenceofsustainedexposuremay
be(LivingstoneandMilgrave-Hargreaves2006).Despitefrequentlyexpressedfears,weremainalong
wayfromanykindofconsensusthatviewingcausesbehaviour.
Anovertfocusonthisaspectattheexpenseofotherconsiderationsfailstotakeaccountofthe
massivelychangedcontextinwhichyoungpeopleaccess,consumeandusedigitalmedia
technologies.Wecannolongersimplyconceptualiseyoungpeopleaspassiveplayersonwhommedia
exertsaninfluenceofonekindoranother.Theabilitytointeractandsocialiseonline,includingby
usingcontentofanincreasinglysophisticatednature,meansthatyoungpeoplethemselvesplaya
crucialroleinformulatingrules,regulationsandthelimitsofacceptablebehaviouronline.
Tounderstandwhatmotivatesyoungpeople’sactionsonlineandhowtheyconceiveofgoodandbad
behaviourinanonlinecontext,wenowturntoconsiderthemoraldevelopmentandthepotential
impacttheinternetmayhaveonmoralaction,takingparticularaccountofpeereffects.

Impactonmoralandsocialdevelopment
Moralityisconsideredadevelopmentalprocess.Piaget(1932)dividesthisprocessintotwostages:
• Heteronomousmoralthinking inwhichrulesareprovidedbyadultsandreinforcedby
punishment.Atthisstage(inotherwords,uptotheageof10or11),childrenthinkthatrulesare
fixedandabsolute,andtendtomakemoraljudgementsonthebasisofconsequences.
25 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

• Relativistmoralthinkinginwhichchildrentakeamorerelativistperspective,andformmoral
judgementsmoreonthebasisofintentions(Piaget1932).Duringthisstage,rulesare
internalisedbutyoungpeoplealsoactonindependentmoraljudgementsbasedonsocial
experience(Bradley2006).
BuildingonPiaget’swork,Kohlberg(1958)extendedthedevelopmentalprocesstosixstages,during
whichtheindividualmovesthroughthreephasesofmoralreasoning:pre-conventional,conventional
andpost-conventional.ThesestagesareoutlinedbrieflyinBox2.1.

Box2.1:Kohlberg’ssixstagesofmoraldevelopment
Phase1:Pre-conventionalmorality
Stage1:Obedienceandpunishmentorientation
ThisstageislargelysimilartoPiaget’sfirststage,withchildrenacceptingrulesasabsolutesandmakingjudgements
onthebasisofconsequencesandpunishments.
Stage2:Individualismandexchange
Atthisstage,childrenbegintorecognisethatthereisnotjustone,absoluteview.Theyunderstandthatdifferent
individualshavedifferentviewpoints,andwillpursueacourseofactionrelativetotheirownindividualinterests.
Whilechildrenatthisstagestilltalkaboutpunishment,thecontextinwhichtheydosohaschanged.DuringStage1,
punishmentprovesthewrongnessoftheaction.InStage2,punishmentisariskyouwishtoavoid.
Thesestagesarecalled‘pre-conventional’,asmoralityisstilllargelyanexternalprocessdeterminedbyothers.
Phase2:Conventionalmorality
Stage3:Goodinterpersonalrelationships
Youngpeopletypicallyreachthisstagewhentheyareenteringtheirteenageyears.Moralityisnowviewedasmore
thanamatterofsimpledeals,andthereisawider,thoughstilllimited,conceptofsocietyinmoraldecisions.Young
peoplebasemoralityonadesiretoliveuptotheexpectationsoffriends,familyandthecommunitybybehavingin
‘good’ways.Inthiscontext,goodbehaviourconstitutesthatwhichhasgoodmotives,andwhichtakesaccountof
interpersonalfeelings–forinstance,love,empathy,trustandconcernforothers.
Stage4:Maintainingsocialorder
Stage4widenstheconceptofsocietyfromtwo-personrelationships(inotherwords,thosewithfamilymembersand
closefriends)toaconcernregardingsocietyasawhole.Atthisstage,moralreasoningplacesanemphasisonobeying
laws,respectingauthorityandperformingone’sdutysothatsocialorderismaintained.
Thisphaseseestheindividualprogressingtomakingmoraldecisionsfromtheperspectiveofsocietyasawhole.Itis
referredtoas‘conventional’,asitinvolvesthinkingfromthepositionofafully-fledgedmemberofsociety.Thisstage
isdominantataroundage16.
Phase3:Post-conventionalmorality
Stage5:Socialcontractandindividualrights
ThisstageseesmoralreasoningstretchedbeyondStage4toconsiderationofwhatmakesforagoodsociety
(Kohlberg1981,Gibbsetal 1983).Itisfocusedontheexistenceofbasicrights(forinstance,arighttolibertyandto
life)andtheexistenceofdemocraticproceduresforchanginglawsandimprovingsociety.Atthisstage,moralityand
rightscantakepriorityoverparticularlaws–forinstance,wheretherighttolifeisinvolved.
Stage6:Universalprinciples
Thisisthehigheststage,wheremoralreasoningseekstodefinetheprinciplesbywhichweachievejustice.Kohlberg’s
accountofthisstageisbasedonKantianandRawlsiantheoriesofjustice,withmoralreasoningtreatingallclaimsin
animpartialmannerandseekingtodefineuniversalprinciples.ThisstageisdesignedbyKohlbergtobelargely
theoretical:evenwhenindividualsreachPhase3,allpost-conventionalmoralresponsesareconsideredtobeStage5
(ColbyandKohlberg1983).
Source:Crain1985
26 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Developmentinmoralreasoningisnotpresumedtobeaprocessofmaturation(Kohlberg1968).
Instead,youngpeopleprogresstohigherstagesthroughthinkingaboutmoralproblems,andthrough
socialexperienceandinteractionsthatchallengelowerstagesofreasoning.Thusmoralreasoningcan
bedevelopedonlybyworkingthroughsituations,ratherthanfrommereinstruction.
Factorsthatcanaffectmoraldevelopmentincludealackofeffectivefeedbackandremotenessfrom
harm,aswellasreducedriskofdetectionandpunishment(Wilkins1997).Eachoftheseareclearly
presentonline:individualsdonotalwaysreceivestrong,effectivefeedback(inotherwords,one
emanatingfromanauthoritativesource)aboutthehurtfulimpactoftheircommunicationsoractions,
whilethereisasignificantlyreducedriskofdetectionandpunishmentforactivitiesthatareillegaland
muchlessforactionsthatmaybemerelyunethicalorrude.
Moralaction
Iftheinternethasaneffectonmoralactionandwhetheryoungpeopleactwithinagivenmorality,we
mustconsiderfirstwhetherthetechnologicalfeaturesoftheinternetitselfencouragebehaviourof
oneformoranother,andsecond,whetherthisispredominantlyduetothefactthattheinternet
facilitatesgreaterinteractionbetweenpeers,ultimatelyheighteningtheirinfluence.
‘Bad’behaviouronlineoccursfrequently:inonlineenvironments,individualsoftenactinwaysthatare
‘disinhibited,de-individuatedandself-absorbed’(Denegri-Knott2003).Evenwhereyoungpeople
havesuccessfullynavigatedstagesinmoraldevelopment,cyberbullying,hacking,intellectualproperty
theftandotherformsofnegativebehaviourindicatetheextenttowhichsomearewillingto
transgressfromtheirmoralcodeinonlineenvironments.
Whatcancauseustoselectivelydisengageourmoralcontrol?Bandura(1991)identifiesthreecauses
thatarerelevantinanonlinecontext:
• Moraljustification Individualsmaketheirconductpersonallyandsociallyacceptablebysaying
theirbehaviourwascarriedoutformoralreasons.Forinstance,whereIntellectualPropertytheft
isconcerned,perpetratorsoftenfocusonnotionsthattheentertainmentindustryis‘rippingoff’
consumersorartists.
• Disregarding,minimisingorignoringtheconsequences Insituationswherethe
consequencesofone’sactionscanbeminimisedordisregarded,individualscanreasonthatthere
isnoneedforself-censure.Importantly,distancemakesapersonmorelikelytopermitharmto
another.Whenthevictimismoreremote,consequencesareeasiertoignore.
• Dehumanisingthevictim Wherethevictimisdehumanised,internalisedempathycanno
longeractasamotivationalforce(Hoffman1991).Again,thishasparticularresonancegiventhat
dehumanisationcanoccurthroughlackofaffectivefeedback–aparticularfeatureofonline
environments.
Itisclearthatthetechnologicalfeaturesoftheinternetcontributetotheeasewithwhich
consequencesofactionscanbeminimisedorignored.Participantsinourdeliberativeworkshops
commentedthatitwascertainlyeasiertobe‘meaner’online,andtosaythingstheywouldnotsayin
aface-to-facediscussion.
Bloggershavefrequentlycomplainedthatpeoplearewillingtocontributehighlynegativecomments,
oftenamountingtopersonalabuse,inresponsetopostings.Therecentexperienceofshort-lived
GuardiantravelbloggerMaxGogartyillustratedthelevelsofvitriolthatcanbedirectedtowards
peopleparticipatingonline.Maxcontributedablogdetailingthestartofhisgap-yeartravels,tobe
updatedthroughouthistrip.ItwashaltedbytheGuardianbecauseofthelevelofunpleasant
personalandabusivecommentsthepostattracted.Thisexamplealsoshowshowpeoplestriveto
makemoraljustificationsfortheiractions.Manypeopleclaimedthattheauthorsoftheabusive
postingsweremerelyreactingtosuspicionsofnepotism,asGogarty(arelativelyinexperiencedwriter)
wasrumouredtobethesonofaGuardiantravelwriter(Behr2008).
Ineverydaylife,situationsthatcalluponamoralvaluesystemarealsoofcourseheavilycontext
dependent(Turiel1983).Whilemoralvaluesarecategoricalanduniversal,socialconventionsare
27 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

arbitrary,andaredeterminedbyalterablesocialsystems.Inordertodecideonabestcourseofaction,
youngpeoplewillnotonlyconsulttheirsenseofmoralitybutalsomakereferencetothesocial
contextinwhichthedecisionisgoingtobemade(Bradley2006).
Offline,socialcontextswill,ofcourse,includepeers,butalongsideparents,adultsandotherauthority
figures,aswellasthewidercommunity.Online,thesocialcontextislargelyformedbythecommunity
inquestion–which,initself,isprimarilymadeupofpeers.Thustheroleofpeersisparticularly
importantinonlineenvironments.
Evidenceshowsthatpeerscanhavepositiveandnegativeeffects.Forexample,ifayoungperson
socialiseswithagroupofteenagerswhoallstudyhard,theindividualconcernedismorelikelytotry
toliveuptotheseexpectations.Conversely,researchsuggeststhatspendingtimewithpeerswho
thinkitis‘uncool’tostudymakesitdifficultfortheindividualtobreakoutoftheenforcedsocial
norm.Whilethisdoesnotpresumeyoungpeopledirectlycopytheactionsoftheirpeers(the‘ifyou
sayjump…’analogy)recentresearchsuggeststheeffectsofpeerpressurearestrongerthan
previouslypresumed(Margoetal 2006).
Peerinfluenceisalsocomplex,operatingatmanylevels.Forexample,femaleadolescentswillbemore
influencedbythelargerpeergroupthanbytheirbestfriends.Empirically,researchershaveshown
thatpeersinaclassroomcanhavesignificanteffectsonthelikelihoodofanadolescentusingdrugs,
drinkingalcohol,smokinganddroppingoutofschool(GaviriaandRaphael1997).Local‘cultural
norms’–theusualbehaviourofteenagersinthelocalcommunity–havemeasurableeffectsonthe
behaviourofallyoungpeoplelivingthere(Margoetal 2006):ifeveryonesmokesbehindtheir
parents’back,itbecomesacceptable,eveniftheteenagerbelievesthatitiswrongorharmful.
Meanwhile,thereisanotherdynamicgoingon,whichisasortofunconscioussocialselection:
researchhasalsoshownthatyoungpeopletendtogravitatetowardsotherswhoshareinterestsand
views,thusmakingitmorelikelythat,forinstanceinaclassroomcontext,well-behavedyoungpeople
willboosteachother’scommitmenttowork,whiletheirless-well-behavedpeerswillspureachother
ontomoredisruptivebehaviour(ibid,Kandel1978).
Thishasimplicationsforthepeereffectsofsocialnetworkingsites,wherelargenetworksofpeerscan
beeasilycoordinated,andwherepeerscanengageinself-selectionmuchmoreeasily,makingfriends
andconnectionswithpeoplewhoalreadysharetheirinterests.Thisactivitymeansthatpeersoften
havereciprocaleffectsoneachother(Kandel1978).
Therearealreadysuggestionsthatpeersonlinedoinfluenceeachothermorenegatively,andina
potentiallymorepowerfulway,thanintheofflineworld.Forinstance,thesocialnetworkingsite
Facebookincludesanumberofpro-anorexiagroups.Thesearesetupbyusersthemselves,and
provideforumsfordiscussionandcomment.Severalhaveinexcessof200members.Charitiesworking
totackleeatingdisordersrecentlycondemnedsocialnetworkingsitesforfailingtoremovesuch
groups,whichtheyclaim‘encouragepeopletoavoidtreatmentorgainideasabouthowtomaintain
theirdisorder’(BBC2008).Inresponse,Facebookhassaidthatitwillnotremovesuchgroups
becauseitisimpossibletojudgewhichsupportgroupsarepositiveandwhichencourageunhealthy
behaviour.Nonetheless,itisclearfrombothsidesofthedebatethatthereistacitacceptancethat
youngpeopleinfluenceeachotherintheseenvironments.
Thissituationposesbothchallengesandopportunitiesforpublicpolicy.Ontheonehand,itshows
thatmitigatingnegativepeereffectswillbeextremelydifficult–particularlyinthecurrent
environment,whichremainsrelativelyfreeofadultmediation.Ontheother,itemphasisesthe
importanceofharnessingthepotentialofpeerstocreatepositiveoutcomes–forinstance,by
providingsupportandadviceinareasofeducation,employment,healthandwell-being.

Issuesdominatingthecurrentdebate
Withthisbackgroundevidenceinmind,wenowturntoconsiderthefollowingspecificissuesthat
havedominateddebatesonyoungpeople’suseoftheinternet:
• Exposuretoage-inappropriatecontent
28 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

• Violentcontent
• Sexualcontent
• Cyberbullying
• Attitudestosafety
• Attitudestoprivacy
• Exposuretoadvertising
• Plagiarismandwebcredibility.
Exposuretoage-inappropriatecontent
Thereis,ofcourse,alongtraditionofrestrictingaccesstocertainmaterialforcertainages.Broadcast
televisionissubjecttothewatershed,ensuringthatcontentofanexplicitlyadultnatureisnotshown
untilafter9pm.Filmsand,latterly,videogamesaresubjecttoageratingsandclassificationsthat
recommendthecontentonlybeviewedbypeopleof12,15or18andabove,forexample.
Theserestrictionshavebeenworkablebecausetherearepointsatwhichtheycanbeeffectively
employed.Filmandvideo-gameretailerscanchecktheageofthepersonpurchasingtheproduct,
whileterrestrialtelevisionisbroadcastalongalinearscheduleandsubjecttostricteditorialcontrols.
However,wheretheinternetisconcerned,suchrestrictionseitherdonoteffectivelyexistorare
impossibletoimplement.Internetcontentisdeliveredondemandfromavarietyofcontentcreators
andsourcesacrosstheglobe.Youngpeoplenowhaveeasieraccesstoage-inappropriatecontentthan
everbefore.
Concernshavechieflyfocusedonaccesstoviolentcontentorimagesofagraphicsexualnatureand
theextenttowhichthesecan‘harm’youngindividuals.Theterm‘harm’canencompassshort-term
harm–forinstance,withcontentthatisinstantlydistressingorfrightening–aswellasmorelong-
termeffects–forexample,contentthatservestocultivatecertainattitudesorviewsofsocietyand
appropriatebehaviour.Thereare,ofcourse,greatdifficultiesinprovidingevidenceoftheeffectof
viewing,andinunderstandingtheextenttowhichothersocialinfluenceshavehadamoresignificant
roletoplay(LivingstoneandMillwood-Hargrave2006).Therearealsoethicalproblemsinexposing
youngpeopletopotentiallyharmfulcontentinordertoanalyseitseffect.
Assessingwhatcontentisageappropriateisnotaneasytask(althoughcommentinthemediaand
policycirclesoftenseemstopresumethatitis).Youngpeopletendtohaveverydifferentperceptions
fromadultsofwhatisageappropriate,andoftenbelievethatcontentisappropriateoratleastnot
harmfultothemeventhoughitmaybeharmfulforchildrenofayoungerage(Livingstone2002).
Severalcommercialservicesoffer‘walledgarden’versionsoftheinternet–inotherwords,alimited
internetthatoffersaccesstocertainsitesthatarepredeterminedas‘safe’.Filteringsystemsalso
allowsparentstorestrictaccesstocontentbasedontheageofthechild.Limitingaccessremainsa
difficulttaskthathastakenonanewcomplexitywiththeintroductionofvideo-sharingwebsites,
whichallowyoungpeoplethemselvesnotonlytosharecontentwhichmaybedeemed‘harmful’but
alsotocreatecontentthatcomesunderthisdefinition.Next,welookattheextentofthisbehaviour
andtheimpactitmayhaveonyoungpeople,consideringbothdistresscausedandthepropensityto
encouragenegativebehaviours.
Violentcontent
Thepossibilityofyoungpeoplebeingexposedtoviolentcontenthasbeenattheforefrontof
policymakers’mindsfordecades,frominvestigationsintotheeffectofviolentcomicsinthe1950sto,
morerecently,theimpactofvideogamesandviolentfilms.
Violenceinthemediacontinuestobeapointofblameforpeopledecryingincreasedviolencein
society.Mostrecently,useofknivesinvideogameshasbeenonesourceofblamefortheincreasein
knifeattacksintheUK’scities(Pascoe-Watson2008).Butourconceptof‘violentcontent’recently
tookonanewaspectasuser-generatedcontentcontainingviolence–forinstance‘happyslapping’
29 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

videos(whereaphysicalattackisfilmedonamobilephonethensharedonline)–capturedpressand
publicattention.
Whatimpactisthisnewformofviolentcontentlikelytohave?Tounderstandthis,itisnecessaryto
lookatfourfactors:scale,access,contextandresemblanceofreality(forafulldiscussionofthe
impactofharmfulandoffensivecontentseeLivingstoneandMillwoodHargrave2006).
• Scale Thispointrelatestothescaleofviolentcontentavailableonline.Itis,ofcourse,impossible
toassesshowmuchviolentuser-generatedcontentisonline.TheWebisforeverexpandingin
size,withnewcontentaddeddaily.Anyassessmentisalsodependentuponadefinitionof
‘violent’,whichisitselfdependentonthecontextinwhichviolenceisportrayed.
InJuly2007,Panorama(BBC1)aired‘Children’sfightclub’–adocumentaryhighlightingthe
numberofvideoscreatedbyusersavailableonlinewhichfeaturedbrutalfightsbetweenyoung
people.Thenumberofthistypeofvideoisdifficulttoassess,butaquicksearchonanynumber
ofvideo-sharingwebsitesdeliversseveralhundredresults.Therearealsositesdedicatedto
showingonlybriefclipsoffightingandnothingelse(‘Purestreetfights’beingonesuch
example).Themostpopularvideoatthetimeofwritingwasentitled‘Girlbeatupinstreet’.It
hadbeenviewedalmost1,250,000times.
• AccessAccesstoviolentcontentisnowmucheasierthanitwasinthepast.Whereascontent
accessedinanofflinecontextwasoftensubjecttoenforcedagerestrictions,itisstrikinghow
quicklyandeasilylargenumbersofviolentvideoscanbeaccessedonline.Thisisnotcontent
whichonehastosearchveryhardfor.Onvideo-sharingsites,typingtheworld‘fight’intothe
searchbarbringsupseveralhundredorthousandresultsandonceonevideoisfounditiseasyto
movefromtheretootherlinkedvideoswhichprovidesimilarcontent.IntheUK,justoverone
quarter(27percent)ofyoungpeopleagedbetween9and19reporthavingvisitedwebsites
containing‘gruesome’or‘violent’content(LivingstoneandBober2005).
• Context Perhapswherethisonlinecontentrepresentsthestarkestdeparturefromviolence
otherwisefeaturedinfilmsandtelevisionshowsisitslackofcontext.Inthelatter,violence
usuallyappearswithinanarrativeandviewerstendtorespondonthisbasis.Iftheviolenceisnot
consideredanecessarypartoftheplot,itislabelledgratuitousandthefilmwillberatedand
restrictedasaresult.Whereusergeneratedshortvideosareconcerned,thereisusuallyeitherno
orverylittleprovidedcontext.Wehavenoideawhoisintherightorinthewrong,whodeserves
to‘win’oranyofthefactsatallintheleaduptothefight.Theentirefocusisthepureviolence
ofthefightitself.
• Resemblanceofreality Afurtherfactorthatisoftenconsideredindeterminingthescaleof
impactviolentcontentcanhaveisitsresemblancetorealityandinparticularwhetherthe
violenceisofaformthatcanbeeasilyimitated.Theviolencefeaturedinvideogames,for
example,haspreviouslybeendeemedtohavealimitedimpactongameplayersbecauseofits
dream-like,fantasyquality.Incontrast,thereisnothingdreamlikeabouttheviolenceexhibitedin
user-generatedfightvideos.Ithasitsverybasisinreality,takingplaceinschoolplaygroundsand
localstreets,andwithnoneoftheconventionsthatexistwithinsomegenresoffiction.
Concernovertheimpactthatsuchcontentcouldhaveonyoungpeopleisfocusedontwopossible
outcomes.Thefirstisthatyoungpeoplemay,intheshortterm,findsuchcontentdistressingor
upsetting.Researchshowsthatunexpectedorde-contextualisedviolenceislikelytohavethiseffect
(LivingstoneandMillwood-Hargraves2006).Butthesecond,andgreatest,popularfearisthatthis
phenomenonisactuallyencouragingandincentivisingviolence:thatyoungpeoplearemorelikelyto
performsuchactsforfilmingpurposes.Evidencelinkingimitationtoviewingissparse.However,there
arestudiesthatshowacorrelationbetweenviewingviolentactsandaggressivebehaviouramong
youngboys(Belsen1978).Aswithmuchoftheresearchofthiskind,criticismsintermsofits
methodologyandtheapplicabilityofthefindingstoreal-lifescenariosarerife.
But,inthecontextofuser-generatedcontent,wemustalsoconsiderthepresenceofpeereffects,
especiallywherecontentispostedwithinsocialnetworkingenvironments.Wecanalsoreferbackto
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factorsthatinfluencemoraldevelopmentandaction.Thereareanumberofareaswheretheonline
contextcouldnegativelyinfluencebehaviour.
Manyvideo-sharingsiteshavethefacilitytoprovidefeedbackonaposteditem.Thisiseffectivelythe
mechanismbywhichcontentismonitored,sinceYouTubedoesnotengageinanyformalregulationof
contentitself–instead,leavingthisprocesstoits‘community’ofusers.Communitymembers
thereforehavetheopportunitytoinfluencebehaviourbyprovidingaffectivefeedbackandmoralclues
astowhatconstitutesrightorwrongactioninthiscontext.
However,whileitdoesappearthatthecommunityisregulatingitselfinsofarasitdebatesand
explorescontentpostedonthesite,itdoesnotdothisinthemannerintendedbyYouTube.Videos
thatareclearlyinbreachofcommunityguidelinesprovidedbyYouTube(forinstance,thatviolent,
racistorcopyrightedcontentshouldnotbepostedonline)failtobereported,despitethefactthey
havebeenviewedseveralthousandsoftimes.Researchshowsthatduringathree-monthperiodin
2007,only0.5percentofvideoswereremovedoutofapproximately6millionposted(basedonan
averageof65,000perday)(Chaetal 2007).
Furthertothis,thecommentsattachedtovideostendnottobeincondemnationoftheacts
portrayed,butinsteadnegotiateadiscussionaroundthe‘quality’oftheviolence:whetheritisfake,
or‘lame’.Positivecommentsareoftenreceivedonthebasisofthestrengthandbrutalityofthefight.
Evidenceshowsthatcommentsreceivedfromsocialnetworkingsitesarestrongpredicatorsofyoung
people’sselfesteem.Inaddition,oneofthemostimportantpredicatorsofanindividualengagingin
antisocialbehaviouriswhethertheirfriendsalsoengageandapprove(Mahoneyetal 2005,Wood
2005).Thereisarealsense,then,thatadolescentscanberewardedforpostinggoodqualityfights
andthatwithinasizeablecommunitythisbehaviourisencouragedasacceptable.
Whatismore,thelackofformalregulation,thenon-removalofcontentandthesheernumberof
videosupdateddailymeansthereislittlesenseofconsequenceand/orpunishment.The‘punishment’
outlinedintheYouTubeCommunityGuidelinesincludesreceivingawarningnotificationor
terminationoftheaccountanddeletionofallvideos.Ifanaccountisterminated,theuseris
prohibitedfromeversigningupforanotheraccount.Finally,wherehappyslappingandotherformsof
‘cyberbullying’areconcerned,therearestrongindicationsthatyoungpeoplearecapableof
dehumanisingthevictimorminimisingtheconsequencesofsuchactions,aswewillexploreinlater
sections.
Sexualcontent
Studiesindicatethatofthe1,000most-visitedsites,10percentaresex-orientated.Meanwhile,
portrayalsofsexuallyexplicitmaterialofaviolentnatureontheinternethaveincreased,and
accesstosuchmaterialhasbecomeeasier(Griffiths2000).Pornographicsitesareparticularly
popularamongyoungboys(Jacksonetal 2007).
Concernsaboutyoungpeopleviewingexplicitlysexualcontentorpornographyareoftencentred
onthefactthatchildrenandyoungpeoplecanfindexposuretosuchcontentdistressing
(LivingstoneandMillwood-Hargrave2006).Morethanhalf(57percent)ofyoungpeople(9–to
19-years-old)claimtohaveencounteredsexuallyexplicitmaterialonline(LivingstoneandBober
2005).Themostcommonreactiontosuchexposurehasbeentoleavethesitequickly.Instances
ofthiskinddonottendtobereportedtoparentsorguardians,withonly16percentofparents
believingtheirchildhasseensuchcontentonline(ibid).
Researchhascentredonwhetherviewingsuchcontentmeansyoungpeopledevelopunrealistic
expectationsorbehavioursregardingsexualrelationships,andsecondlywhetheritcould
encouragemorepromiscuousbehaviouramongyoungpeople(BraggandBuckingham2002).A
declineintheageatwhichyoungpeoplefirsthavesexualintercourse,alongwithhigherratesof
teenagepregnanciesandconcernsaroundthesexualisationofchildhood(particularlythe
‘tweening’ofpre-adolescentchildren),meanthatthereremainsgreatsensitivityaroundthisissue
(Margoetal 2006).
31 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Evidenceshowsthatthepredominanceofsexualcontentinyoungpeople’smediadiethasa
significantassociationwiththeirsexualactivityandtheirfutureintentionstobesexuallyactive
(Pardunetal 2005).However,onlinecontentisbynomeansthechiefculprit.Takingwebsites,
films,televisionprogrammes,magazinesandmusictogether,11percentof13-to15-year-olds’
mediacontainedsexualcontent.Thestrongestassociationswerefoundwithfilmsandmusic
(ibid).
Furthermore,thereisevidenceofalinkbetweenconsumptionofpornographyandthepresence
ofsexuallyaggressiveattitudesandbehaviours,andthatexposuretosexuallyexplicitmaterialin
onlinefilmsissignificantlyrelatedtobeliefs–heldequallybyboysandgirls–thatwomenaresex
objects(PeterandValkenburg2007).Evidenceshowsthattheinternetinparticularisnowacting
asa‘sexualsuperpeer’,particularlyforyounggirlswhoareincreasinglyturningtoonlinesources
forcuesonhowtoact(Brownetal 2005).
Again,thereareconcernsaboutuser-generatedcontentand,inparticular,photosandvideos
postedbyyoungpeopletosites,whichmayfeaturethemselvesorothersinrevealingposesor
situations.Whethersuchactivitieshavelong-lastingemotionaleffectsisdifficulttomeasure.
However,itcertainlyraisesthepossibilityofunwantedattentionandapproachfrompeople
wantingtopreyonyoungerinternetusers.Alongsidethis,thematerialmaybetakenoutof
whateverlimitedcontextithasduringlaterstagesoftheyoungperson’slife,ifpotential
employersoruniversitiessearchtheinternetforbackgroundinformationonapplicants.
However,whileraisingconcerns,thisincreasedaccesstomaterialrelatedtosexandsexualityalso
presentsanopportunity,byactingasasourceofeducationandinformation.Particularlywhere
sexualhealthisconcerned,themediahaslongbeenasourceofinformationforyoungpeople
(BraggandBuckingham2002),andagrowingnumberofyoungpeopleturntotheinternetfor
healthinformationmoregenerally(KaiserFamily2002).Theneedforprovidingaccessibleand
trustedinformationonsexualhealthonlineisclear.
Cyberbullying
Bullyingisakeyissueforyoungpeople,with35percentofYear6(aged12)pupilsreportingbullying
asamainconcern.Thispercentagedecreaseswithage,with25percentofYear8sreportingitasa
mainconcern,andonly15percentofYear10pupils.Almostonethird(30percent)ofschoolpupils
reporthavingbeenbulliedatschoolinthepreviousfourweeks(DCSF2007).
IntheUK,evidenceshowsthat22percentofyoungpeoplehavebeenvictimsof‘cyberbullying’at
leastonce,reportinghavingreceivedhurtfulcommentsviatextmessageorhavingexperiencedabuse
onforumsandsocialnetworkingsites.Overthepastyear,cyberbullyinghasbecomeakeypublic
concern,especiallyinthecaseofpupilsusingdigitaltechnologies(particularlyvideocapturedon
mobilephones)tobullytheirteachers(Harrison2007).
Butdespitethereadinessofthemediatoengagetheterm‘cyberbullying’,ourresearchsuggeststhat
thetermisnotacoherentoneforyoungpeople.Inourdeliberativework,thetermwasnot
referencedbyanyagegroupwhendiscussingtheseissuesdirectly.Perhapsthisisalogicalapproach–
thesymptomsofbullyingarethesameonlineasoffline,withthesoledifferencebeingtheirdelivery
throughtechnologicalmeans.
Ourresearchshowsthatonlinepeergroupslargelyperpetuateexistingofflinegroups,andthat
communicationonline–whethernegativeorpositive–isshapedbytheofflinerelationship.Asone
youngpersonexplains:
‘Itdependswhoitis.Ifit’syourenemy,youcuss’emdownandtheycussyouback,
butifit’sjustlikeyourgirlfriendorsomethingyoujustlikechat.’(Boy,14,ABC1)
Whilethepresenceof‘cyberbullying’asabywordusedbythemediaiscertainlyhelpfulintermsof
heighteningawarenessoftheissue,italsoraisesthepossibilityofcyberbullyingbeingseenasa
problemseparateanddistinctfrombullying.Whilethelatterisseenasasocialproblem–locatedfor
instanceinschoolsorworkplaces,andwithrelativelevelofagreementofjointresponsibilityfor
32 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

dealingwithperpetrators–thesuggestionthatcyberbullyingisa‘new’phenomenonbringsthe
possibilityofthiscoalitionofresponsibilitybeingignoredinfavourofblamingtechnology,or
technologyproviders.Theseparties,ofcourse,dohavearole,butarenottheonlyplayerswhocould
bepartofaworkablesolution.
Nonetheless,youngpeopledidsaythatitwaseasiertobeunkindoroffensivetopeopleonlineas
opposedtooverthephoneorfacetoface–perhapsbecausetheywouldavoidseeingtheimmediate
impactoftheirbehaviour.Anumberofparticipantsalsosaidthatonlinecommunicationhad
aggravatedproblemsandargumentswithfriends:
‘IhavemuchmoreargumentsoverMSNthanIhaveinreallife…Ithinkpeoplefeel
saferonMSNsotheygetmorerude.’(Girl,15,ABC1)
‘Ifyou’reannoyedatafriend,youcouldsaythatonMSN.It’seasierthansayingitto
theirface.’(Girl,13,ABC1)
Stillagreatdealofactivitywhichadultsmayconsiderbullyingbehaviourhadambiguousconnotations
foryoungpeople.Youngpeoplefeltthatspeakingonlinewasmorelikelytoleadto
misunderstandingscomparedtoface-to-faceorphoneconversations:
‘Youmightsaysomethingandnotmeanittobeangryandthepersonmightjusttake
itanotherway.’(Boy,18,C2DE)
‘Thebadthingisthatyoucantypeitandthinkitsoundslikesomethingelse.’(Girl,17,
ABC1)
Therewerealsostrongsocialnormsaround‘seeingthejoke’withregardtoonlineactivity.Infact,all
thegroupsemphasisedthatputtingembarrassingphotosoffriendsandacquaintancesonlineisfully
acceptableandconsideredharmless.Here,youngpeoplewereadeptatminimisingtheconsequences
oftheiractions,becomingwilfullyignorantoftheharmthatcouldbecausedbysuchunwanted
exposure.Discussionofthisissuepromptedmanyparticipantstotellstoriesofsimilarandmore
extremethingsthattheyhaddoneorthathadhappenedtothem.
Referringtoanimaginedscenarioofayounggirlwritingonanothergirl’sfaceandpostingtheimage
online,responseswere:
‘Icanunderstandifshefallsasleepandtheydrawonherfaceorwhatever,yeah,it’s
funny,I’dputitonthere.’(Boy,15,C2DE)
‘I’mthekindofpersonwhere,ifsomeonedidthattome,I’dlaughaboutitandtakeit
asajoke.’(Girl,13,ABC1)
Amongyoungeragegroups(13-16),therewasrarelyanyrecognitionofthefurtherharmthatmaybe
generatedbyenablingwidecirculationofembarrassingorhurtfulimages,videosandcomments:
‘Someonepassedout…weputatamponuphernoseandshewokeupanddidn’teven
know,shewassodrunk…shewaswalkingaroundwiththistamponuphernose,with
writingalloverherface….Therewasaplasterwithahangingtamponandoneupher
noseandshedidn’trealiseandwetookpicturesandputitonMySpace.’(Girl,18,C2DE)
‘MyfriendsethishandonfireandslappedXroundthefaceandweputiton[the
internet].’ (Boy,14,ABC1)
Importantly,asyoungpeopleinmiddleadolescencediscussedsuchactivitiesinmoredetail,stories
movedseamlesslyfromactivitiesthattheyhadrecorded,onmobilephonesordigitalcamerasfor
instance,andthenpostedonline,toactivitiesthathadtakenplacein‘reallife’andnotbeen
distributedanyfurther.Olderparticipantswere,onthewhole,moreconsciousofthequalitative
differencesbetweenonlineandface-to-facecommunicationandthepotentialforonlineexposureto
behurtfultopeers:
‘Sometimesyoucangetalienatedfromyourfriends.Likeyoucanhaveonefriendand
sayeveryonestartsto–likeonepersondoesn’tlikethemthensaystotheothers‘I
33 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

don’tlikethem’andstartsbitchingaboutthem,thenbeforeyouknowittheycanall
beblockedandthisonepersoncanbelike“Allmyfriendshaveblockedme”.That
usedtohappenalotinsecondaryschoolandit’slike–“Getalife”,d’youknowwhatI
mean?’(Boy,18,C2DE)
Attitudestosafety
Theissueofchildsafetyonlinehascapturedtheattentionofparents,policymakers,industryandthe
press.Ithaslargelybeendealtwithfromtwoperspectives:first,seekingtocurtailinstancesof,and
accessto,childabuseimagesonline,andsecond,limitingtheopportunitiesofpredatoryadultsto
reachyoungpeopleonline.Here,wefocusonthislatterissue,andofyoungpeople’sexperiencesof
unwantedsexualapproaches.
Earlyconcernsinthisareacentredontheroleofchatroomsinfacilitatingsuchactivity.Following
variouspressstoriesandgovernmentandindustrysafetycampaigns,someofthemostpopular
chatroomproviders–forinstanceMicrosoftandYahoo!–closeddowntheirservices(ICF2001).Our
researchindicatesthatchatroomsnowmakeuplittle,ifany,ofyoungpeople’sonlineactivity.
However,thenewcropofinternetservices–particularlysocialnetworkingsites(SNSs)–offernew
opportunities,raisingconcernsthatyoungpeopleareyetmorevulnerabletoapproachesfromthose
whowoulddothemharm.Lastyear,theChildandOnlineExploitationCentre(CEOP)heldaseriesof
seminarsconsideringtheriskstoyouthfromsocialnetworkingsitesarguingthatthese‘new
environment[s]canfacilitatenewformsofsocialdevianceandcriminality’,particularlyinenabling
‘newopportunitiesforsexualexpressionanddeviancebothtoyoungpeopleandadultswithasexual
interestinthisgroup’(CEOP2006).
EvidencedrawnfromMySpaceusers(ofallages)intheUSfoundthatfewerthanoneinthreehadan
uncomfortableexperienceonMySpace,withonly7to9percentapproachedforasexualliaison.
NearlyallofthosesimplyblockedtherequesterfromcontactingthemthroughtheirMySpacepage.
Thoseunder18wereevenlesslikelytoreceivesexualsolicitationsthanolderusers(Rosen2006).
However,exposuretorisksofthiskindcontinuestobeaconcern,andhigh-profilecampaignshave
continuedtoalertyoungpeopletothepossibledangers.Thesubjectalsoremainsapopularonetobe
coveredbymassmedia.Asaresult,themessageappearstohavebeensuccessfullyreceivedbyyoung
peoplethemselves.Ourdiscussionswithyounginternetuserssawthemrepeatmedia-friendlyphrases
suchas‘strangerdanger’andthemerefactofconversingwith,ormeetingwith,peoplemetonline
wasinexorablylinkedwithpaedophiles.Infact,whendiscussingrisksassociatedwithinternetuse,the
threatposedbypaedophileswastheissuemostcommonlyraisedbyallgroups.
Wepresentedthegroupswithascenariodescribingaface-to-facemeetingwithsomeoneoriginally
metonline:
Scenario:Offlinemeeting
DarrenmadefriendswithSusanthreemonthsagoinachatroom.SusanhastoldDarrenthatshe
isalsoagedx[agechangedtocorrespondtoeachgroup]andlivesinLondon.Susanhasaskedif
theycanmeetupinperson,andDarrenhassaidyes.

Whenpresentedwiththisscenario,theyoungpeopleimmediatelyemphasisedtheriskassociatedwith
suchanaction:
‘Like,ifyougoalongandtheykidnapyou…like,it’snotreallygoingtohappenbutit
might.’(Boy,14,ABC1)
Butwhilethebarebonesofthemedia,industry,parentalandgovernmentsafetymessageshave
certainlybeenreceived,thereareimportantcaveatstorecogniseintermsofyoungpeople’spractice
asopposedtoexpressedattitudes.‘Strangerdanger’wascertainlyarecognisedconcept.However,
thisdoesnotmeanthatyoungpeoplearenecessarilyunwillingtomeetpeoplewhotheyhavefirst
hadcontactwithonline.Socialnetworkingsitesofferhugeopportunitiesforwideningfriendship
circlesatatimewhenadolescentsocialisationisatitspeak–forexample,bymakingfriendswith
34 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

‘friendsoffriends’.Thisphrase‘friendsoffriends’isparticularlyimportant,andwasfrequently
usedbyyoungpeople.
AsBoyd(2006)comments,‘friendship’isanexpansiveterm–itcanencompassrelationshipsthat
aremuchmorediffusethanthoseexplainedbytheterms‘sister’,‘brother’,‘partner’,‘workmate’
andsoon.Withtheriseofthesocialnetworkingphenomenon,thetermhasbeenpushedeven
further.TheconceptoffriendshiponsitessuchasMySpace,BeboandFacebookisstretchedto
includefamouspeopleyoumightadmire,bands,brandsandplaces;profilesrepresentingthese
peopleorplacesmayormaynothaveanyrealconnectiontowhattheyrepresent.
A‘friendofafriend’canincludepeoplefromaverywidecircleandcancounterlargedifferences
inageandlocation.Thepotentiallytenuousnatureofthislinkisillustratedinthefollowing
participants’comments:
‘IfyoumeetoverMSN,youkindofvaguelyknoweachotherbecauseyouhaveto
gettheiraddy[address]fromsomeone,so….’(Boy,18,C2DE)
‘Butd’youknowwhatpeopledo–whenyousendlink…chainemails,youcanget
theemailsofotherpeoplethathavebeenchainingtoeachother.’(Girl,17,ABC1)
Theideathatsomeoneisafriendofafriendcangiveyoungpeopleacertainsenseofassurance–
forexample:
‘Iwouldnevermeetsomeoneonline,ever.ImeanIwouldn’ttalktopeopleIdidn’t
know,unlessthey’reafriendofafriend,letalonemeetupwiththem.’(Boy,17,
C2DE)
‘Ifthey’relikeafriendofafriend[I’dtalktothemonline],Iwouldn’tjustlookupa
randomperson.’(Girl,14,ABC1)
Whiletherewerestrongsocialnormsagainstmeetingupwithpeopleyouhavemetonline–
primarilybecauseitwasthoughtofas‘sad’or‘desperate’–membersofthe15-to16-year-old
agegroupwerewillingtoadmithavingdoneso,primarilytomeetmembersoftheoppositesex.
Thiscoincideswithevidenceregardingthedevelopmentalstagesofyoungpeople’smediause,
andreinforcesthepointthatitisduringthesemiddleteenageyearsthatyoungpeoplearemost
likelytotakerisksinthenameofpursuingsocialactivities.Thisagegrouptendstograspthe
opportunitiespresentedbySNSsinordertoexperienceasenseoffreedomfromadult
interference,butalsoinordertodemonstratethattheyhavesuccessful,maturesocialinteractions:
‘Thewholepointoftheprivacy[setting]is,like,sothatpeopledon’taddyouthat
youdon’tknowbutattheendoftheday,youshouldbeabletomakeyourown
decisions–especiallyatthisage.’(Boy,16,ABC1)
Whenitcomestotalkingtopeopletheydidnotknowwell,youngpeoplefavourtheinternetover
othercommunicativemeansbecauseitenablestheusertocontrolone’ssocialinteractions
(Maddelletal 2007).Forinstance,thefactthattoolssuchasinstantmessaging,textmessaging
andemailcanbeusedforeithersynchronousorasynchronouscommunicationsmeansthatyoung
peoplearegiventheopportunitytothinkabouttheirresponseifdesired(ibid):
‘Cosifyoudon’tknowthemverywell,youmightnotwannaspeaktothemover
thephonecositmightbeabitawkwardwhereasyoucangettoknowthembetter
online.’(Girl,18,C2DE)
‘Youcantalktopeopleyoudon’tknowthatwellwithoutitbeingawkward.’(Girl,
16,ABC1)
Butwhileindividualswerewillingtotakerisks,thegroupalsoshowedevidenceofeffortsto
maximisesafety,illustratingtheextenttowhichexperiencecanenableyoungpeopletodevelop
levelsofmedialiteracywithoutformaleducation(Buckingham2005b).The15-to16-year-old
groupheldextendeddiscussionsaboutthewaysinwhichtheywouldestablishtheidentityand
ageofsomeonetheymetonline.Webcamswereseenasthemosttrustworthysource,while
35 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

picturesweretrustedbysomebutnotothers:
‘Iwouldn’ttrustanyoneunlesstheyhadawebcamcosthenyoucan,like,seethem
butpictures–that’sadifferentthing.’(Boy16,ABC1)
Participantswhodidmeetupwithonlineacquaintancessaidthattheywouldspeakfirstonthe
phone.One16-year-oldgirlsaidthatshecouldtellbythenatureofthecommunicationiftheperson
wasanadultpretendingtobeheragebythetypesofquestionsthattheyasked,andalsothrougha
complicatedmethodofcommunicatingwiththatpersonusingmorethanoneprofileinorderto
comparetheiranswers:
‘AboycanmeetagirloragirlcanmeetaboyoverMSNaswell,taketheirnumber
andmeetthem…youjusttaketheirnumberandthenyoutalktothemyeah,you
don’thavetomeetthemstraightaway,youjusttalktothemforaboutaweekandyou
justmeetthemafter.’(Boy,14,ABC1)
‘Likesometimestheytrytoohardtobeinwiththekids,Idon’tknow,liketheytrytoo
hardtoactlikeachild,butit’sobvious.’(Girl,15,ABC1)
Participantsinallagegroupsdemonstratedthattheywereawareofsafetymeasures,suchasbeing
accompaniedbyfriendsandmeetinginapublicplace:
‘Ifyoudiddothat[meetingupwithanonlineacquaintance]thenyouwouldatleast
gowithaloadoffriends,butIwouldn’tdoit.’(Girl,16,ABC1)
Attitudestoprivacy
Closelyrelatedtocampaignsaroundsafetyarecampaignsencouragingyoungpeopletoprotecttheir
privateinformationandpersonaldetailsonline.
TheGovernment-backedwebsitethinkUKnow.co.ukgivesadviceon‘howtostayincontrol’by
limitingtheamountofpersonaldetailsgivenawayonline.Forexample,thesitestronglyrecommends
onlygivingyourmobilephonenumbertofriends‘youknowintherealworld.Ifyourmobilenumber
isgiventopeoplethatyoudon’tknow,theymayhassleyou.Thisiswhyit’salsobestnottoputyour
numberonyourprofileofyoursocialnetworkingsite(likeBebo,MySpaceandFacebook)’(quoted
fromwww.thinkuknow.co.uk/11_16/control/social.aspx).
High-impactcampaignsshownincinemashavealsosoughttoraiseawarenessaboutthedifficultyof
assessingexactlywhoyouarecommunicatingwithonline,andtheimportanceoflimitingtheamount
ofpersonalinformationyoutellthemonthisbasis.
Butinconceptsofprivacyandthepersonalareperhapswhereyoungpeopleandadultsdivergethe
most.Anecdotalevidencepointstowardsrapidlychangingideasofwhat‘privacy’meansinadigital
age(Nussbaum2007),withyoungpeopleincreasinglywillingtoliveoutmuchoftheirlives,their
aspirations,hopesanddailythoughtsinpublicandonline.
Thisdoesnotmeanthatyoungpeoplehavenoconceptwhatsoeverofprivacy:theyattachparticular
importancetokeepingsomecategoriesofinformation(forexample,mobilephonenumbers)private.
OfthosewithprofilesonSNSs,only2percentincludetheirmobilephonenumberaspartoftheir
profile.However,manyothercategoriesofinformationaregivenoutwillinglyandenthusiastically:for
example,themajorityofteenagersincludetheirfirstnameandaphotoofthemselves(Lenhartand
Madden2007).
DisclosureofpersonalinformationispracticallyarequirementasfarasSNSsareconcerned.The
purposeofsuchsitesistoconnectwithfriendsandacquaintances,andusingarecognisablemoniker
–whetherone’srealnameoraknownnickname–isnecessaryinorderthatfriendscanfindandlink
withyou.Inourresearch,participantsgenerallysaidtheyusednicknamesorfirstnamestodescribe
themselvesonlineand,wherenicknamesortaglineswereused,thesewereoftenbasedonprivate
jokeswithfriendsratherthanbeinganattempttodisguisetheiridentity:
‘I’vegotanicknamethatIuse,thatwepickeduponholiday.’ (Girl,17,ABC1)
36 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Box2.2:Informationprovidedbyteenagersonline(figuresfromUnitedStates)
•82%ofprofilecreatorshaveincludedtheirfirstnameintheirprofiles.
•79%haveincludedphotosofthemselves.
•66%haveincludedphotosoftheirfriends.
•61%haveincludedthenameoftheircityortown.
•49%haveincludedthenameoftheirschool.
•40%haveincludedtheirinstantmessagescreenname.
•40%havestreamedaudiototheirprofile.
•39%havelinkedtotheirblog.
•29%haveincludedtheiremailaddress.
•29%haveincludedtheirlastnames.
•29%haveincludedvideos.
•2%haveincludedtheirmobilephonenumbers.
•11%ofprofile-owningteensposttheirfirstandlastnamesonpublicly-accessibleprofiles
•5%ofprofile-owningteensdisclosetheirfullnames,photosofthemselvesandthetownwheretheylivein
publicly-viewableprofiles.
Source:LenhartandMadden(2007)

‘[Youhave]pictures–soyouknowwhotheyare.Butalso,like,afterawhile,itjust
startsbecoming–likewhenyouseethenamecomeupsomewhereyouwouldbelike,
yeahthat’ssoandso.’(Boy,18,C2DE)
Socialnetworkingprofileswerealsoreferredtoasregularlyusedfor‘self-advertising’.Itwas
repeatedlyassertedthatusersneededtomaketheirprofilesattractiveinorderthatpeoplewould
wanttobefriendthem.Inordertodothis,includingphotographswasarequirement:
‘You’relikeadvertising[onBebo]soyoulikeputyourownpictureupandyourown
information.’(Girl,13,C2DE)
Thisideaofself-advertisingwasfrequentlyreferenced,andledtomanyyoungpeopledisregarding
privacyoptionswherethesewouldlimit‘self-advertising’opportunities.Forexample,settingyour
profileto‘private’,usingthetoolsprovidedbytheSNSitself,meantthatotherpeoplecouldnotview
youronline‘advertisement’.Thiswouldnegativelyimpactonyourabilitytomakefriends:
‘Ifyouwanttomakenewfriendsontheinternetthen[ifyouhaveitsettoprivate]no
onecanviewyourprofiletomakefriendswithyou.’(Boy,15,C2DE)
However,youngpeople’sassessmentsofthebalancebetweenpublicisingandprivacycontainedsome
inherentcontradictions.Youngpeopleexpressedcleardiscomfortwiththeideaof‘weirdos’lookingat
theirprofilesonline.Butwhileparticipantsdidnotlikethethoughtofbeingspiedon,theyalso
admittedfeelingcompetitivewithregardtothenumbersofpeoplewhoviewedtheirprofile,andthey
highlightedtheimportanceofappearingtohavealotoffriends:
‘Idon’tliketheideaofpeoplegoingthrough,liketheycanseeyourdisplaypicture,
obviously,butIdon’tlikethethoughtofthemactuallygoingthrough,likepervingon
you,sendingphotocommentsandyou’rejustlike–it’sweirdpeople.’(Boy,18,C2DE)
‘IdislikethatyouhaverandompeoplegoingonyourBeboandlookingatyourstuff
andbeingabitweirdbutIdolikethewayIcancontactmyfriendsfreeandlookatmy
friends’profilesandseeanynewstuff.’(Girl,13,ABC1)
Anotherareawhereyoungpeoplewereoftenlaxintermsofprivacy,isinrespondingtoquizzesand
questionnairesonline.OnMySpace,thebulletinboardfeatureisoftenusedtopostresponsestoshort
quizzes.Arecentpostingfromoneidentifiable16-year-oldfemaleincludedanswerstothefollowing
questions:
37 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

• doyouloveanyone:
• doyouhateanyone:
• doyouhavegoodrelationshipswithfriends:
• doyouhavegoodrelationshipswithfamily:
• whichfrienddoyoulikethemost:
• whichfamilymemberyoulikethemost:
• whatdoyouvaluemore,friendshiporaperfectrelationship:
• howimportantissexinarelationshiptoyou:
• areyouattractedtopeopleofthesamesex:
• whowasthelastpersonyoulustedafter:
• doyoutrustpeoplewithyourlove:
• couldyouhavesexwithsomeoneyoudonotlove:
• areyoualovingperson:
• doyouevenbelieveinlove:
• whoisthemostimportantpersontoyou:
• haveyoulostyourvirginity:
• haveyoueverkissedordoneanythingwithsomeoneofthesamesex:
• whowasthelastpersonyouhadsexwith:
(MySpacequestionnaire,uploaded7/3/07)
Sheansweredfurtherquestionsregardingherfavouritealcoholicdrink,drugandsoon,despitethe
factthatshemaynothavebeenawarethattheanswerssheprovidedwerevisibletopeopleusingthe
site.
Theideaisthatusersposttheanswerstothesequestionstothebulletinboard.Othermembersof
theposter’snetworkarethensupposedtoaddtheirownanswers,re-posttothebulletinboardand
reachanewnetworkofSNSusers.
DespitethefactthatSNSusers’networkscanstretchtomanyhundreds,oreventhousands,of
contacts–someofwhomwillbepersonallyknowntotheposterbutmanyofwhomwillnotandwill
insteadbecapturedundertheelusivephrase‘friendoffriend’–younguserscouldseenorisks
involvedinparticipatinginsuchactivities.Despitethefactthattherehavebeenrecentpressstories
regardingpotentialemployersoruniversitiessearchingsocialnetworkingsitestofindoutinformation
aboutapplicants(BBC2007a,Lisberg2008),comparedwithmeetingupwithpeopleinreallife,or
givingawaypersonaldetailssuchasaddresses,thistypeofactivitywasbarelydiscussedina‘risk’
contextatall:
‘Everyonedoesquizzes,it’snottoomuchofabadidea;it’sonlyabadideaifyour
teacherscatchyou.’(Boy,14,C2DE)
Perhapstheclearestwaytoarticulatethecontradictioninyoungpeople’sattitudesistounderstand
theirbehaviourasbeingmadeupofprivateconversationsthattakeplaceinpublicspaces(Shirky
2008).Toalimitedextent,thisisalreadyasociety-widetrend,withmobilephonesenablingpeopleto
have‘private’conversationsinverypublicplaces–forexampleontransport–onaregularbasis.
However,theseconversationsaretemporaryinnatureandprovidenolasting,meaningfultrace.Thisis
verydifferenttothelong-lastingnatureofconversationscarriedoutonline,whichmayremain
availableformanyyearstocomeandcantypicallybelinkedeasilytotheposter,alongwithawhole
hostofotheridentifyinginformation.
Exposuretoadvertising
Awillingnesstoabandonprivacyhasstronglinkstoyoungpeople’spotentialincreasedexposureto
38 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

advertisinginonlineenvironments.Therehasbeenalongagreementthatadvertisingtoparticularly
youngchildrenshouldbelimited.Theadvertisingofharmfulproducts–forinstancealcoholand
tobacco–toyoungpeoplehaslongbeenproscribed,andtheconceptof‘harmful’hasrecentlybeen
widenedtoincludejunkfood.UndernewOfcomguidelines,advertisingofjunkfoodisrestricted
alongsidebroadcasttelevisionprogrammesthathavesubstantialappealtounder-16s.
However,thereisalsorisingconcernattheimpactofadvertisingitself–overandabovetheproducts
itpromotes.Thecommercialisationofchildhoodhasbecomeanemergingthemeforpolicymakers,
academicsandparentsalike.Evidenceshowsthatthemoreinvolvedchildrenarewithconsumerism,
themorelikelytheyaretoexperiencedepression,anxietyandstress-relatedphysicaldiscomfort
(Schor2004).Inparticular,thesesymptomsareshowntobeexacerbatedbypoverty:childrenfrom
thepoorestsocio-economicgroupsarethemostinterestedinconsumerandmaterialisticconcerns
(Mayo2006).
Alongsidethesepolicyconcerns,therehasbeenanexpansioninthechildrenandyoungpeople’s
market,asboththeexpenditureofyoungpeopleandtheirinfluenceonparentalpurchaseshas
increased(Schor2004).
Eachyear,youngpeopleintheUKspendanestimated£680millionoftheirownmoneyonsnacks
andsweets,afurther£660milliononclothing,£620milliononmusic,£400milliononfootwear,£350
milliononcomputersoftware,£250milliononmagazinesand£38millionontoiletries(Childwise
2005,citedinMargo2007).Itisnowonderthatproducershavesoughttoadvertisetheirwaresto
thisgrowingmarket.
Advertisingtochildrenhastraditionallybeenlimitedalongdevelopmentallines.Asfarasbroadcast
mediaisconcerned,bytheageoffivemost(butnotall)childrenareabletodifferentiatebetween
advertisementsandprogramming,toalimitedextent.However,theystillseeadvertsasentertainment
orunbiasedinformation.
Adeeperunderstandingofthepersuasiveintentionsofadvertisersoccursbyaroundeightyearsold.
Accordingtoonestudy,53percentofchildrencouldunderstandthisbyages6-7,and87percentby
ages8-9.Byages10-11,almostall(99percent)ofchildrenrecognisedthatadvertisementswere
attemptingtosellproducts(RobertsonandRossiter1974).
Attheageofeight,youngpeoplealsorecognisethatadvertisementsdonotalwaystellthetruth
(Schor2006).Butresearchshowsthatthepresenceofscepticismdoesnotaffectthedesireforthe
advertisedproduct,evenfor9-to10-year-olds(Brucksetal 1998,Roedder1999).Infact,
longitudinalresearchshowsthatadvertshaveastrongpositiveinfluenceondemand–especiallyfor
girls(SafferandDave2003,SafferandChaloupka1999).
IntheUK,advertisinghasbeenregulatedinlightofthesefindings,withadvertisingtounder-12s
heavilyrestricted.Butrecentlytherehavebeenaccusationsthatadvertisersareseekingtoundermine
agreementsaroundageappropriatenessandtodevelopamoresophisticated,adult-likerelationship
withchildrenandyoungpeoplefromanearlierage(seeMargoetal 2006forafulldiscussion).In
particular,concernshavebeenraisedaboutthepracticesofadvertisersinonlineenvironments–
particularlythosethatarepopularwithyoungpeople,suchassocialnetworkingsites.
AdvertisingisahugepartofSNSssuchasMySpaceandBebo.Whetheronbehalfofalarge
commercialidentity(theCoca-ColaadsbythebandWhiteStripeswerefirstshownonMySpace)or
originatingfromanunsignedband,anindividual’sclothinglabelorpromoterofalocalclubnight:
marketingmaterialofoneformoranotherpopsupincommentsandonbulletinboardsonamore
thandailybasis.
Suchmaterialalsobecomesanintegralpartofusers’profiles.Justasyoungpeoplemakeconnections
withbandsorfamouspeopleto‘writethemselvesintobeing’andbuildtheironlineprofile,flyersfor
clubnightsandotherpromotionalmaterialservetoillustratetheusers’framesofreference,interests
andalignmentsthatexistwithintheirnetworks.
InasurveybytheEuropeanResearchintoConsumerAffairs(ERICA),48percentofchildrensaidthey
hadseensomethingonlinethatmadethemwanttomakeapurchase,andonequarterofthose
39 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

surveyedhadboughtitemsonline(EuropeanResearchintoConsumerAffairs2001).Researchalso
suggeststhatchildrencanbeconfusedbytheblurringofadvertisementandcontentonwebsites.
Youngpeoplewhoarequitecriticalofmainstreamadvertisingaremuchlesslikelyeventobeawareof
suchpractices(Seiter2004).‘Advertorial’contentregularlyfeaturesonbrands’ownwebsites,whereit
ofcoursenotsubjecttothesameguidelinesthatapplytoadvertisementsinpaid-foronlinespaces.
Marketerscancreatemoremeaningfulrelationshipswithconsumersonlinethantheycanoffline,
offeringlevelsofinteractivitythatareimpossiblewithbroadcastadverts.Thishasbeenusedtogreat
effectonsocialnetworkingsites–particularlyBebo,whichfeaturesbrandprofilesonthefrontpage
ofthesite.Youngpeoplecanbecome‘friends’withthesebrands,submittingtheirowncontenttothe
profilepage,addingcommentsandengaginginavarietyofinteractiveactivity.Concernsaroundthis
practicewereraisedrecentlywhenitemergedthe‘Skittles’brandofconfectionaryhadpaidBeboa
six-figuresumtofeatureheavilyonthesiteandtorecruityoungpeoplefromaged13upwardstobe
its‘brandambassadors’.
BrandidentityofyoungpeopleinBritainisalreadysignificantlyhigherthanotherdevelopednations,
includingintheUS(Mayo2005).Byentwiningbrandsevenfurtherwithyoungpeople’sonline
identities,thepracticesofadvertisersonsocialnetworkingsitesarelikelytofurtherexacerbatethe
problem.
Plagiarismandwebcredibility
Theinternethasundoubtedlyrevolutionisedthewayweaccessandshareinformation.The
educationalbenefitsofinformationandcommunicationtechnology(ICT)havelongbeenheraldedby
policymakers,andyounginternetusersregularlyrecordgoingonlinetocompletetheirhomework
tasks.However,concernshavearisenregardingtheextenttowhichtheinternetfacilitatesa‘copyand
paste’culture,inwhichyoungpeoplearerelativelyunquestioningabouttheveracityofinformation
accessedonlineandequallypreparedtopresentitastheirownwork.
Itis,ofcourse,difficulttoassessthescaleoftheproblem,andtheextenttowhichplagiarismhas
drasticallyincreasedwiththeemergenceoftheinternet.Copyingentireparagraphsfrombooksor
studyguideswasnotunheardofinapre-digitalage–however,therearenowseveralsitesonthe
webthatofferessaystodownload,eitherforfreeorforasmallfee.Addedtothis,thereare
translationsitesthatcantranslateforeign-languagetextsintoEnglishorviceversa,aswellas
informationresourcessuchasWikipediafromwhichlargeswathesoftextcanbecopiedandpasted
intoanessay.
Throughoutippr’sdeliberativeworkshopswithyoungpeopleplagiarismwasdescribedasextremely
common,andalargenumberofparticipantsinallthegroupsadmittedtocuttingandpasting
informationfromtheinternetandusingitinschoolwork.Theonlylimitingfactorswereseentobe
practical,intermsoftheconsequencesofbeingcaught.Toescapethis,respondentsdetailedtheways
inwhichtheyhadhonedtheirplagiarismskillsinorderthatitwouldnotbedetected:
‘IfI’vegotanEnglishessay,I’llgoonGoogle,typeinwhattheessay’saboutandcopy
andpasteit–it’sdone.’(Boy,15,C2DE)
‘Iwouldn’tdownloadawholeessaybecausethey’dfindoutbutI’ddownloadalotof
it.’(Girl,14,ABC1)
‘It’salright,youcanedititanddosomespellingmistakesorit’sgonnalooktoogood.’
(Girl,13,C2DE)
Itisthismoresophisticateduseofworkthatteachersthemselvesadmitisproblematicintermsof
identifyinginstancesofplagiarism.Whileolderagegroups(17-to18-year-olds)didrecognise
plagiarismasamoralissue,discussionsaroundthiswereverylimitedandimplicitratherthanovertly
tackled.Forexample,theyweremorelikelytotrytojustifytheirdecisiontocut,pasteandre-word
onlineinformationintheirschool-work:
‘Forcoursework,it’sallaboutindividualresearch,anditisresearchinasense,you’re
justre-wordingit.’(Boy,18,C2DE)
40 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Relatedtotheissueofplagiarismistheextenttowhichyoungpeoplearewillingtoacceptwhatthey
readonlineatfacevalue.Faceretal (2003)arguethatyoungpeopletendtoacceptinformation
onlineasimmediatelyauthoritative,whileBevortandBreda(2001)foundthatchildrendidnot
questionthecredibilityortrustworthinessofwebsites.
Youngpeopleinterviewedforthisresearchprojectplacedalargeamountoftrustinthesearchengine
Google,indicatingitwasthefirststepinattemptingtofindinformationonline.Itwasalsopraisedas
areliablewebsite.Nonetheless,itstillpresentedsomedifficultiesinsiftingthroughinformationtofind
whatwasrequired:
‘Googleisquitereliableexceptthatsometimeswhenyoutypethingsinitcomesup
withquitealotofwebsitessoyoudon’tknowwhototrust.’(Girl,13,ABC1)
Theyalsoexpressedtrustinlargeandestablishedtraditionalmediabrands–particularlytheBBC–
partlybecauseitwasaknownbrand,butalsobecauseinformationwaseasilyfoundonit:
‘Ifwewanttofindoutnewsquick,wejusttypeinBBC,that’swhatweknow,that’s
whatweseeonTV.’(Boy,14,ABC1)
Inassessingthereliabilityofinformationonline,youngpeopletendedverymuchtotrusttheir
instincts,judgingbysuchfactorsashowthewebsitelooks,itsformatandlayout,aswellaswhether
thewebsitewas‘official’.
Whereeffortshadbeenmadetotailorinformationandcontenttoyoungpeople,reactionsfrom
youngpeoplethemselvesweremixed,andforthemostpartwebsitestooobviouslygearedtowards
‘youngpeople’wereseenaspatronising.
Forinstance,whendiscussingtheNumber10websiteaimedatyoungpeople,participants
commented:
‘Itmakesyoufeellikeakid,like‘kid’snews’butyoucouldjustgoontheBBCNews
likeeveryoneelsegoeson.Thisisabit,like,it’stryingtobecool.’(Boy,14,ABC1)
‘Ihateitwhentheytrytomakeitinterestingforouragegroupcositneverworksand
theyalwaysmakeyoufeelreallyjuststupid.’ (Girl,16,ABC1)
Themostpopularwebsitesweretheonesthatweremostinteractive–forexample,websitesthat
includedtheopportunitytolistentomusic,watchvideosorengagethroughMSN,asthefollowing
youngpeopleexplainedinrelationtotheBBCBlastwebsite,whichoffersacreativeforumforyoung
people:
‘That’smuchmoreattractivebecausethat’sgotvideosandit’sgotgames.That’smuch
better.’ (Boy,15,ABC1)
‘It’skindoflikeMySpaceinawaycosit’sgotmessageboardsandvideo.’(Girl,17,
ABC1)
Incontrasttoyoungpeople’swillingnesstoacceptinformationatfacevalue,therewerestronglevels
ofdistrustwhereitcametofinancialmatters,withmanyparticipantsrelatingstoriesof‘hacking’and
beingrippedofffinancially.However,givenyoungpeople’slimitedmeanstoengageinfinancial
transactionsonline,itisdifficulttodrawanyconclusionsabouthowthiswillinfluencetheirbehaviour
inlateryears.Whatisinterestingisthatthelinkbetweenprivacyandpersonalinformationand
financialsafetywasnotdrawn.Theconceptofidentitytheft,ratherthanfinancialriskinimmediate,
monetaryterms,wasnotraised.

Summary
Ourconcernsaroundtheeffectofmediamustprogressfromsimplyconsideringthedangersofyoung
peopleaccessingage-inappropriatecontent.Restrictingaccesstocontentonthebasisofageis
extremelyhardtogetrightand,wheretheinternetisconcerned,hastendedtowardsa‘blanket18
andunder’and‘18andabove’approach.However,therearecleardifferencesinmaturityand
developmentbetweena12-year-oldanda17-year-old.
41 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Whatismore,adultassessmentsofcontentthatisageappropriateareoftenmisguided.Reactionsto
theNumber10website,aimedatyoungpeople,showhowquicklyorganisationsriskalienatingyoung
peopleiftheygetthetonewrong.
Itisimportantthatwetakeproperaccountofthesocialcontextinwhichyoungpeopleinteractonline
–particularlysincethisislikelytohaveastrongeffectontheirbehaviourandchoices.Ourevidence
showsthatyoungpeoplearecapableoflearningthroughexperienceanddevelopingtheirown
strategiesfordealingwithsomeofthechallengesthatnavigatingadigitalmedialandscaperaises(for
instance,developingsafetyconstructswhichdeterminewhetherornottotrustonline).
However,thereremainclearareasthatpresentrealconcern,andthatpolicymustbegintoconsider
howtoaddress–forinstance,theprevalenceofviolenceandtheculturethatsurroundsthison
video-sharingsites,thelackofdistinctionthatyoungpeopledrawbetweenexposureinonlineand
offlinecontexts,andthewillingnesstotakeinformationfoundonlineatfacevalue.
Thislastpointraisesparticularconcernswherethescaleofincreaseofonlineadvertisingisconcerned.
Thereisastrongsensethattheopportunitiesaffordedtoyoungpeopleonlineareexceedingtheir
understanding–particularlywhenweconsidersituationsinwhichjudgmentsofamoralnatureare
required.
Acommonthreadthrougheachoftheseconcernsthatpervadesyoungpeople’sactivityonlineisa
lackofreflectiveness.Thereisverylittlesenseoftheinvisibleaudiencewhomaybewitnesstoa
youngperson’sactivities,orthatinformationorcontentmaybetakenoutofthesocialcontextin
whichitismadeavailableandjudgedondifferentcriteria.Inattemptingtoaddressthis,wemusttake
peerinfluencesseriously–especiallygiventhelackofheedthatyoungpeoplepaytowardsother
limits,suchaslegalrestrictions.Tacklingthisisobviouslyadifficultareaforpublicpolicy,asitinvolves
changingbehaviourwithincommunitiesratherthanintroducingtop-downrulesandregulations.
Akeyneedthatemergesfromthischapteristhatofdetermininganewroleforthecorporatesector–
includingtheinternetindustry,butalsoothercompaniesthatseektoengagewithyoungpeoplein
onlineenvironments–todeterminewherethelimitsoftheirresponsibilitylie.Theextentof
socialisationthattakesplaceinonlineenvironmentswouldsuggestthatcorporateentitiesnowtake
onasignificantroleinraisingyouth.Assuch,itisimportanttostrikeanaccordthatdetermineshow
farthesepartiesshouldgoinattemptingtoprovidegreaterlimitsand,importantly,strongerguidance
andmorepositivenormsforyoungpeopleinteractingincommercialdomainsthatareotherwise
largelyfreefromadultmediation.
42 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

3.Thelimitsofrulesandregulations
Thepreviouschaptershowedthattherearecontinuingareasofconcernwhenitcomestoyoung
people’sinteractionwithdigitalmedia.Usingtheinternetdoesincreasethepossibilityofbeing
exposedtoharmfulcontentoratthereceivingendofharmfulbehaviour.Especiallywhenmore
extremecasesarehighlightedbythemedia,itisunderstandablethatthefirstplacewelooktosolve
suchproblemsisformalregulation.
Theinternetposesaspecialchallengeinthiscontext,andtherearegreatdifficultiesinimposinga
formalregulatoryenvironmentonlineinawaythatmirrorstheregulationthatwehavelongimposed
onourbroadcastindustries.Asaconsequence,workablesolutionsarenotlikelytobesolely
regulatory.However,itisusefultounderstandthecurrentregulatorypositionandbegintoconsider
whenandwhereitcouldbechangedtoreflectourrapidlychangingmediaenvironment.
Thischapteroutlinesthecurrentregulatoryframework,identifyingwhatitcoversandwhatitdoes
not.Itoutlinessomeofthedifficultiesinregulatinginternetcontent,andconsiderssolutionsoffered
byself-regulationandco-regulation,andbytechnologicalsystemssuchasfilteringmechanisms.In
doingso,italsohighlightstherolethatmaybeplayedbypartiesotherthangovernment.

Thecurrentregulatoryenvironment
Thisnextsectiondetailsthecurrentregulatoryenvironmentasitappliestotheinternetandinternet
content.Itoutlinesthemostrelevantlawsandthenreviewshowgovernmenthasspecifically
approachedtheregulationofcommunications–includingtelevisionandtheinternet–intheUKand
Europe.
Basiclegalstandards
Duringitsearlydays,theinternetwasregularlycharacterisedasa‘newfrontier’,or‘WildWest’–a
lawlessenvironment.However,onlinecontenthaslargelybeensubjecttothesamelegalactsasother
publications,andwhatisillegalofflineisalsoillegalonline.So,inadditiontolawsrelatingtochild
abuseimages(forexample),onlinepostingsaresubjecttodefamation,libelandintellectualproperty
law.
ThefollowingActsoflawareamongthoserelevanttoonlinecontent:
• ThePublicOrderAct1986 makesitanoffenceforapersontousethreatening,abusiveor
insultingwordsorbehaviour,ortodisplayanywrittenmaterialwhichisthreatening,abusiveor
insultingwhichislikelytostirupracialhatred.
• TheSexualOffencesAct2003relatestothecreation,possessionanddistributionofindecent
imagesofchildrenunder18yearsofage.Wheretheinternetisconcerned,makinganimage
includesdownloading–asdoingsomeansacopyoftheimageiscreated.ThisActalsocreateda
newoffenceof‘grooming’,whichmakesitacrimetobefriendachildontheinternetorbyother
meansandtomeetorintendtomeetthechildwiththeintentionofabusingthem.
• TheDefamationAct1996 appliestotheinternetjustasitappliestoofflinematerial:the
definitionof‘publication’undertheActincludeswebsiteswheretheyareavailableforthepublic
toaccess.Typically,theoriginatorofdefamatoryremarks(inotherwords,thepersonwhohas
writtenthecommentorstatement)isheldresponsible,andawebsiteownerwhoallowsother
userstopostcommentsisprovidedadefenceunder‘innocentdissemination’solongasthe
personorfirmhostingthecontent‘tookreasonablecareinrelationtoitspublication,anddidnot
know,andhadnoreasontobelieve,thatwhathedidcausedorcontributedtothepublicationof
adefamatorystatement.’
• TheObscenePublicationsActs1956and1964 makeitanoffencetopublishanycontent
thatmay‘depraveandcorrupt’thoselikelytoread,seeorhearit.Thiscouldincludeimagesof
extremesexualactivity,suchasbestiality,necrophilia,rapeortorture.Importantly,thetestfor
obscenityisthetendencytocorruptordepraveanadult,ratherthanachildoryoungperson.As
43 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

aresult,lawenforcersrecognisethatthislegislationislikelyonlytorelatetothemostextreme
imagesratherthanpreventingthemajorityofonlinepornography.
However,whiletheselawsareapplicableonlinetheyarenonethelessdifficulttoenforce.Thisisfora
numberofreasons,whichweshallexploreinthesection‘Whyisinternetcontentexcluded?’
Wenowgoontolookatregulationrelatingspecificallytothecontentofcommunications.
Regulationofcommunicationscontent
HerewelookattheCommunicationsAct2003,theEuropeanAudioVisualMediaDirective(2006),
self-regulationandco-regulation,andtechnologicalsolutions.
TheCommunicationsAct2003
Wherebroadcastcontentisconcerned,wedonotsimplyexpectprogrammestomeetabasicstandard
ofbeinglegal.Film,radioandtelevisioncontenthaslongbeensubjecttostandardsthatextend
beyondbasiclawsandrelatetomoresubjectiveareas,suchastasteanddecency,andcurtailingthe
provisionofcontentthatislikelytocauseharmoroffence.Themostimportantpieceoflegislationin
thisrespectistheCommunicationsAct2003.ThisActestablishedOfcom,anddefinedthelimitsof
contentregulationasweformallyknowit.

Box3.1:Ofcom’sStandardsCode
Ofcom’sStandardCodesetsoutobligationsfortelevisionandradioprogrammestoensurethat:
• Peopleundertheageof18areprotected
• Materiallikelytoencourageorincitethecommissionofcrimeortoleadtodisorderisnotincluded
• Newsispresentedwithdueimpartialityandaccuracy
• Adequateprotectionisprovidedfromoffensiveandharmfulmaterial
• Advertisingisnotmisleading,harmfuloroffensivenorcontravenestheprohibitiononpoliticaladvertising.

Becauseoftheloomingprospectofconvergence,theActsoughttotakeaplatform-neutralapproach
tocontentregulation.So,ratherthansaying‘allcontentontelevisionisregulated’,Ofcom’sStandards
Codeappliestoall‘televisionlicensablecontentservices’.Thuscontentdeliveredviamobilephones,
theinternetorotherdistributionmeanscouldbeincluded,aslongasitismadeavailableforreception
bythegeneralpublic(inotherwords,isnota‘private’service)andismadeupoftelevision
programmes.
Soforexample,oneelementofthecodetranslatedpracticallyistheimplementationofthe
watershed,whichrunsfrom9pmto5am.Thisprovidesaguidingdevicetoparentsandyoungpeople
thatanycontentbroadcastafter9pmwillbeaimedatadultaudiences.
WhatisnotcoveredbytheAct? Thedefinitionexcludesservicesprovidedbyelectronic
communicationsnetworksaslongastheirmainpurposeisnottomaketelevisionorradioprogrammes
availableforaviewingpublic.Theyarealsoexcludediftheyoffera‘two-wayservice’(inotherwords,
onethatreliesonusers‘pulling’contentviatheinternet,ratherthanhavingcontent‘pushed’to
them).
ThustheCommunicationsActexplicitlyexcludesinternetcontentfromOfcom’sregulatoryremit.But
astheinternetbecomesamajorsourceofentertainment,newsandinformation,thisstancehasraised
somedifficultpoliticalquestions.

TheEuropeanAudioVisualMediaDirective(2006)
InEurope,therehasrecentlybeenstrongdebateovertheproposedamendmentstotheTelevision
WithoutFrontiersDirective(TWFD).TheTWFDwasintroducedin1989tosetstandardsacrossEurope
fortheregulationoftelevisionservices,bothineconomicterms,andintermsofcontent.
Overthepastfewyears,theEuropeanCommissionhasinvestigatedupdatingtheDirectiveinorderto
reflectthechangingnatureofaudio-visualservices.Thedebatehasragedovertheextenttowhich
44 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

regulationshouldbeextendedtointernetcontent,andtherevisedDirectivehasbeenthrough
numerousdraftsinordertoensurethatwhileon-demandorInternetProtocolTelevision(IPTV)-
deliveredbroadcastcontentiscaptured,internetcontentisnot.
TheUK,ledbyOfcomandtheDepartmentforCulture,MediaandSport(DCMS),hasheldfasttoits
positionthatthisistherightdirectiontotake,andthatmoresubstantiallegislationwoulddramatically
harmaburgeoningnewmediaindustry,stallinnovation,andadverselyimpactthedevelopmentof
Europe’s2010agenda(Jowell2006).
ThefinaltextoftheDirectivehasnowbeenagreed,andmemberstateshaveuntiltheendof2009to
implementit.Themostsignificantchangeistherequirementthatmemberstateshavetointroduce
‘co-regulation’ofvideoon-demandservices.Otherthanthis,itislikelythatonlyafewregulatory
changeswillbenecessary.However,thepathoftheDirectivehasofferedthemosthigh-profile
opportunitytodiscussregulatoryissuesinrelationtotheinternetforsometime.
Whyisinternetcontentexcluded? Thereareanumberofreasonswhytheinternethasbeentreated
differentlyfromotherbroadcastcontent.Wediscussthreeofthesehere.
First,internetusersareseenasbeingmuchlesspassivethanviewersofbroadcastcontent.Thisis
partlybecauseinternetusersselectthecontenttheywanttoviewand‘pull’thiscontentbytypingin
awebsiteaddress(URL)orclickingonalink.Thisisfundamentallydifferenttothewayinwhichlinear
broadcastcontentiseffectively‘pushed’totheviewer.However,itisnotclearforhowmuchlonger
thisdistinctionbetweenpassiveandactivewillremainsalient,givenmovestodeliverbroadcast
contentviaanon-demandmodelthatprovidesconsumerswithmorechoiceandcontrolovertheir
ownmediaexperience.
Furthermore,contentconsumersalsooftencontributetotheregulationofcontentandinformation
online.Wikipediaisperhapsthemostprominentexample,whereusersactivelycontributetodrafting
entriesfortheonlineencyclopaedia.Butusersalsoassistinestablishingthereputationandveracityof
otherinformationontheinternet.ReputationsystemsenabletheonlinemarketplaceeBaytowork
effectively,asbuyersandsellersratethequalityofeachothers’transactions.
Alongsidethis,therearealsoarangeoffilteringandblockingtoolsthatenableuserstomanagetheir
ownexperiences:filteringoutunwantedcontent(forinstance,spamemailmessages)orblockingpop-
upadvertisements.
Thesecondkeyfactoristhateditorialcontrolontheinternetiswidelydistributed.Muchofthe
transformativenatureoftheinternetisaffordedbythefactthatanyonecanpostcontent–for
instance,bywritingablog,settingupawebsite,postingvideostoYouTube,uploadingphotosto
Flickr,orsimplycreatingaMySpaceprofileorcommentingonanewsstory.Thismeanstheinternetis
arichanddiversesourceofopinionandinformationunlikeanyother.
Thethird,perhapsmostimportant,factorinunderstandingwhytheinternetistreateddifferentlyisin
recognisingthedifferenttechnicalcharacteristicsthatdistinguishtheinternetfromabroadcastmedia
model.Inlegislativeterms,theinternetisseenasadistributiontool–a‘carrier’analogoustothepost
office.Underthee-CommerceDirectiveof2001,InternetServiceProviders(ISPs)areafforded‘mere
conduit’status.Theyhavenoresponsibilitytomonitorcontentthatpassesovertheirservers.Thisis
becauseitisextremelydifficulttocontrolcontentstandardsinanenvironmentinwhichanyonecan
beapublisherofcontent,andwherearangeofprovidersareresponsibleformeetinguserdemands.
WhileuserswilltypicallyaccessservicesviaanISPsuchasAOL,BT,BulldogorEclipse,thecontent
theychoosetoaccesswillnotnecessarilybeprovidedbythesecompanies.Itmaynotoriginatefrom
thesamecountryasthepointofaccess,andmayinfactcrossjurisdictionsdependingonthedifferent
suppliersinvolvedinfinallydeliveringdatatotheindividual.
Thisposesmanyproblems.Thereisadifficultyindecidingwhichpointinthesupplychainisthe
correctplacetoassignresponsibility.Moreover,particularlywheremediacontentisconcerned,
regulationtendstobebasedonnationalboundariestowhichtheinternetdoesnotconfineitself:
contentoriginatesfrom,andcanbereceivedby,peopleallovertheworld.
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Internationalstandardsaredifficulttosecure–particularlywhereissuesoftasteanddecencyare
concerned.AsBaronessScotlandputit,‘thereisnointernationalconsensusonwhatconstitutes
obscenity,orwhenthefreedomofanadulttohaveaccesstoobsceneorpornographicmaterialshould
beconstrained’(Hansard2004).
WherecontentoriginatesfromoverseasbutfallsfoulofUKlaw,therearevariousobstaclesinhaving
suchcontentremoved–particularlyifitdoesnotqualifyasillegalinitscountryoforigin.Evenwhere
contentisillegal,countriesmaynothavethesameappetiteorresourcestotackletheproblem.This
factisillustratedwhenweconsideronlineimagesofchildabuse:ofthosereportedintheUK,thevast
majorityoriginatesfromoverseas–mostcommonlytheUSandRussia(IWF2006).
Self-andco-regulation
Thefactthattheinternetpresentssuchaqualitativelydifferentenvironmentforregulators–andone
inwhichlawsaredifficulttoenforce,comparedtotraditionalbroadcastmedia–meansthatsimply
extendingalegalsolutiontocoverconcernsthatarecurrentlyarisingaroundchildrenandyoung
people’suseoftheinternetisnotalwaysthemosteffectivecourseofaction.
Inresponse,industryandgovernmenthavesoughtalternativewaystomaketheinternetasaferplace,
focusingontheuseofselfandco-regulatorymechanismsofwhich,undertheCommunicationsAct
2003,Ofcomhasadutytopromotethedevelopmentanduse.
Self-regulationistypicallyregulationundertakenbytheindustrypartnersconcerned.Itisseenas
muchmoreflexiblethanformallegislation.Inanenvironmentwhereinnovationhasoccurredata
rapidrateandthelimitsoftechnologicalpossibilitychangeregularly,thisisseenasakeyadvantage
asitisabletorespondmorequicklytothechangingdemandsofthemarket,anditcaninvolve
industryactivelyinsettingstandardsthatwillnotlimitthepotentialofinnovation.Itisalsoseento
havecertainbenefitsintermsofcost,typicallybeingmuchcheaperthanformalregulatory
mechanisms.
Incontrast,co-regulationinvolvesastateactor,andmayrequirelegalprovisionsinordertoensure
thatindustrycommitstotheschemeacrosstheboard.Schemesarestilloftendesignedbyindustry,so
theyretainsomeofthebenefitsofself-regulationinunderstandingwhatworksandwhatdoesnot,
butaco-regulatoryschemeislikelytogivetherelevantpartiesgreaterincentivestoparticipate.Thisis
normallybecausetheregulatorybodyresponsibleforco-sponsoringtheschemeholds‘reserve’or
‘backstop’powerstoenforceformalregulationwherenecessary.
Decidingwhenandwhereself-orco-regulationisthemostappropriateregulatorymechanismoften
dependsonarangeofcircumstances.InapapertotheEuropeanPolicyForum,Foster(2007)
identifiestheseas:
• Thedegreeofalignmentbetweentheincentivesofindustryandtheaimsofpolicymakersand
thepublic
• Theextenttowhichthegeneralpublicissufficientlyinformedtomakegooddecisions
• Whetherthereisacrediblethreattoensurecompliance–forinstance,isthebusinessriskof
breachingaself-regulatorycodesufficientoraresignificantfinancialpenaltiesnecessary?
• Whetherthemodelusedwouldbeenoughtogeneratepublicandpoliticaltrustinitsefficacyand
avoidfuturemoralpanics.
Totakeanexample,wenowconsiderhowthreeorganisations–theInternetWatchFoundation,the
AdvertisingStandardsAssociationandeBay–fitthesecharacteristics.

TheInternetWatchFoundation
TheInternetWatchFoundation(IWF)wassetupin1997.OftencitedasoneoftheUK’smost
successfulco-regulatorymodels,itwasinitiallyintendedtosimplyprovideahotlineforreporting
child-abuseimages.However,in2001itsremitwaswidenedattherequestoftheHomeOfficeto
includecriminallyracistcontent,anditnowdealswiththisandpotentiallyillegaladultpornography.
ReportscanbemadetotheIWFviaahotline.
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Onceareportisreceived,theorganisationwillinvestigatewhethertheimageisillegal,tracethehost
ofthecontentand,ifthehostisintheUK,givethemnoticethattheimageshouldberemoved.It
willalsonotifylawenforcement.IftheimageisfoundtobehostedoutsidetheUK,theorganisation
willcontacttherelevantinternationalbody.Tofacilitateregulationofsuchaboundary-lessmedium,
theIWFasinstrumentalinsettingupINHOPE(aninternationalbodyofinternethotlineproviders).
INHOPE’smembersincludegroupsfromtheUS,Austria,Spain,Belgium,Australia,Denmark,Finland,
Ireland,Greece,France,Germany,Iceland,Italy,Holland,SouthKoreaandSweden.
Whiletheincentivesofindustry,governmentandthepublicarebroadlyaligned–forexample,all
partieswouldprefertoridtheinternetofchild-abuseimages–theissueisseriousenoughtorequire
substantialpenaltiesfordisregardingtheadviceofacode.EventhoughISPsarenotthecreatorsof
suchimages,theyarenonethelessliablefortheirpublicationifandwhentheyhaveknowledgeof
theirexistence.Thepenaltyissevere.AlthoughtheIWFisoftenreferredtoasa‘self-regulatorybody’,
thislabelisinaccuratesinceitlargelyperformsfunctionsotherwiseundertakenbylawenforcement.
ISPsandotherindustryplayerscannotchoosenottoabidebytheIWF’snotices:todosoistoact
illegallyandriskprosecution.
TheIWF’ssuccessmeansthatitdoescommandthetrustofpoliticiansandpublicandtheprospectof
replicatingtheIWFmodelandextendingittoincludeotherformsofcontent–forinstance,that
whichisconsideredharmfuloroffensivehasoftenbeenraised.Mostrecently,thesuggestionofa
‘clearinghouse’forinternetcontenthasbeenmooted(Hansard2008).However,itisworth
rememberingthatthesuccessoftheIWFislargelyduetothecontentitdealswithandthefactthatit
hassuchaspecificremit.
TheIWFmodelforremovalofcontentfollowstheso-called‘noticeandtakedownprocedure’.Put
broadly,thisprocedureeffectivelyfollowsthefollowingpattern:
1. AuseridentifiesapieceofcontentthatheorshebelievesinfringesUKlaw–forinstance,is
libellous,containsillegalimages(suchasthoseofchildrenbeingabused)orinfringescopyright.
2. HeorshenotifiestherelevantISP,whichisthenputonnotice.
3. TheISPwillinvestigatetheclaimofillegalityandremovethecontentaccordingly.Wherecontent
contravenesUKlaw,itmaynotifypoliceor,iftheoffencebreachestheISP’sowncontent
guidelines,suspendthecontentposter’saccount.
Thisproceduremayseemsimpleenough,butitissubjecttomanycomplexities,whichareoften
overlookedbypolicymakersandcampaignersalike.
In2000,apan-EuropeanprojectcalledRightsWatchexploredtheuseofnoticeandtakedowninorder
todevelopatooltoachievepromptremovalofcopyright-infringingmaterialfromtheinternet.The
projectwasfraughtwithdifficulties,andendedin2002withoutconsensusbeingreached.Amajor
problemitfacedwasfindinganeasywaytoidentitywhethercontentreporteddidcontraveneUKlaw.
Whilethisisnotaprobleminsomecontexts,inothersitisveryproblematic.Consideringthecaseof
child-abuseimagesonline,thelawisveryclearthatsuchimagesarealwaysillegal.WhenISPsare
givennoticeofthepresenceofsuchcontentontheirservers,theyarequicktoremoveit,asitiseasy
tojudgeitsillegality.Inthesecircumstances,itisalsorarethattheindividualororganisationposting
thecontentarguestheircaseandattemptstodefendtheiractions,meaningthattheintermediary
(typicallytheISP)isnotplacedinthepositionofjudgingwhoisrightandwhoiswrong.
Butforothercontent,judgmentscanbelessclear-cut.Inthecaseofcopyright,copyrightexceptions
(intheUK,fair-dealingprovisions)thatenablelimiteduseofcopyrightedworks,aswellasthefact
thatcopyrightisnotaregisteredright,providedifficultiesinassessingwhetherclaimsofinfringement
arejustified.Ananxietytoactquicklyandavoidpotentiallegalactioncanleadtohasty,under-
investigatedremovalofcontent(Ahlertetal 2004).Thiscouldhavesevereimpactsonfreespeech,
researchandreporting.
Therearesimilarissueswithassessingtasteanddecencyandtheoften-complicatedassessmentof
whatconstitutesalibellousstatement.ISPshaveexpressedfrustrationsthatalackofguidanceinthe
47 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

noticeandtakedownprocedure–forinstance,signifyingexactlywhatconstitutesa‘notice’,how
quicklyanISPshouldacttoremove,andanindemnityfrommaking‘incorrect’judgments–hasleft
theminpositionofactingbothasjudgeandjury,andofdealingwithcomplaintsthatwould
otherwisebesettledinacourtoflaw.
Anyclearinghousedealingwithinternetcontentwouldhavetokeepthesefactorsinmindandsetup
procedurestobeabletodealwiththecomplexitiesofcomplaintsthatarelikelytocomein.Itcannot
merelyofferahotlinethatpassescomplaintsontoathirdpartyintermediary:clearstandardsand
guidelinesforcomplaintsmustfirstbeestablished.

TheAdvertisingStandardsAssociation
Anexampleofaself-regulatorysystemistheAdvertisingStandardsAgency,whichenforcesself-
regulatorycodesforbroadcastandnon-broadcastadvertising.TheCommitteeofAdvertisingPractice
(CAP)Codeappliestonon-broadcastadvertisingandincludesprovisionssuchas:
• Marketingcommunicationsshouldcontainnothingthatislikelytocauseseriousorwidespread
offence.Particularcareshouldbetakentoavoidcausingoffenceonthegroundsofrace,religion,
sex,sexualorientationordisability.CompliancewiththeCodewillbejudgedonthecontext,
medium,audience,productandprevailingstandardsofdecency.
• Marketers,publishersandownersofothermediashouldensurethatmarketingcommunications
aredesignedandpresentedinsuchawaythatitisclearthattheyaremarketingcommunications.
• Marketersandpublishersshouldmakeclearthatadvertisementfeaturesareadvertisements–for
example,byheadingthem‘advertisementfeature’.
• Marketingcommunicationsaddressedto,targetedatorfeaturingchildren(inotherwords,under
16)shouldcontainnothingthatislikelytoresultintheirphysical,mentalormoralharm.
• Advertisementsmustnottakeadvantageoftheimmaturityornaturalcredulityofchildren.
• Advertisementsmustnotleadchildrentobelievethatunlesstheyhaveorusetheproduct
advertisedtheywillbeinferiorinsomewaytootherchildrenorliabletobeheldincontemptor
ridicule.
Asfarasinternetadvertisingisconcerned,theCAPCodecovers:
• Advertisementsinpaid-forspacesuchasbanneradvertisementsandpop-ups
• Advertisingcontentincommercialemails
• Salespromotionswherevertheseappearonline
• Commercialtextmessages
• Viralmarketingemails
• Paid-forentriesinsearch-engineresults
• Advertisementsonelectronickiosksandbillboards
• Advertisementsinelectronicgames
• Useofemailaddressesformarketingpurposes(forexample,spam).
Itdoesnotcovermosteditorialcontentonwebsites(otherthanpaid-foradsandsalespromotions)or
itemspostedonbulletinboardsandnewsgroups,unlesstheseareplacedbyacommercialcompany.
Anyonecancomplainaboutanadvertisement.Afterreceivingacomplaint,theAdvertisingStandards
Authority(ASA)willinvestigatetoassesswhethertheadvertisementhasbreachedthetermsofthe
CAPCode.MarketersareinformedoftheASA’sdecision,andmaybeaskedtowithdraworamend
theirmarketingcommunicationsaccordingly.Iftheydonotcomply,sanctionsmaybeapplied.These
canincludetheadversepublicityreceivedfromanegativeASAruling,advertisementalertsthat
preventnon-compliantadvertisersfrombeingabletoaccessadvertisingspaceoftheCommitteeof
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AdvertisingPractice’smembers.TheASAandCAPmayrequirepersistentoffenderstohavesomeor
alloftheirmarketingcommunicationsvettedbytheCAPCopyAdviceteam,untiltheASAandCAP
aresatisfiedthatfuturecommunicationswillcomplywiththeCode.
TheCodeworksinsofarastheinterestsofindustryandgovernmentpolicyarealigned:theadvertising
industrywouldprefertoescapeformalregulation,astheworkoftheASAismuchswifterandmore
flexible.Likewise,thesanctionsthattheASAcanhandout–includingexclusionfromadvertising
space–havefinancialramificationsthataresufficientlyseveretopreventcontinualoffending.
Finally,thereisafurtherconsiderationthatappliestosomeinternetservices:theextenttowhich
usersthemselvesarewillingtocomplywithrulesandregulationsonline.Commitmentstogood
behaviourarehardtocomeby,asweexploredinthepreviouschapter.Therehavebeensome
attemptstodevelopcodesofethics(BBC2007b)butthesehaveoftenbeenridiculedorignored.
Simplyimposingacodeisnotenoughiftheredonotexistincentivestosticktoitornormsto
encouragecompliance.

eBay
Perhapsthemostsuccessfulexampleofself-regulationinthiscontextiseBay.eBayisanonline
marketplacethatusesareputationsystemtoestablishtrustbetweenusers,andtoprovideincentives
forgoodbehaviourwithinthemarketplace.
Forexample,buyersandsellersareratedontheirperformanceinactingswiftlyandthequalityofthe
goodssold.Buyersleavecommentsandapositive,negativeorneutralratingfortheseller,andthe
sellerdoesthesameforthebuyer.Thenumberofpositivetransactionsoverthelifetimeoftheusers
eBaymembershipiscalculatedtogivethebuyerorsellerastarrating,indicatinghowreliablethey
are.
eBayencouragesuserstoleavehonestandfairfeedbackbecauseofthereciprocalnatureofthe
system.Whereasmanyinternetsitesseemtoencouragenegativebehaviourandresponsesfromthose
involved,aneBayuserisunlikelytoleavenegativefeedbackwhereitisunwarrantedasthisislikelyto
resultintheythemselvesreceivingnegativefeedbackinreturn.Anegativeorlowapprovalratinghas
aneffectonusersexperienceofthesite.Forexample,peoplewithlowapprovalratingsareoften
excludedfromtransactions,withsellersrefusingtodobusinesswithbuyerswhoseratingislow.
Likewise,buyersareunlikelytointeractwithsellerswhosesellinghistoryshowsexamplesoflow-
qualitygoodsorbadcustomerservice.
Becausebuyersandsellersbuildupreputationovertime,theyarealsodiscouragedfromdiscarding
theireBaypersonaandstartingagain:todosowouldbetobeginwithoutagoodreputationand
thereforebelittletrustedintheonlinemarketplace.
WhileeBayhaslongbeenseenasaworkablesolutionforenablingtrustonline,thegrowthofthesite,
andinparticularitsusebyestablishedbusiness,hasrecentlyledittochangeitssystemandtodeny
sellersthechancetoleavenegativefeedbackforbuyersinorderthatthebalanceofpowermaynot
beunfairlydistributedinthesellers’favour(Schofield2008).
Technologicalsolutions
Therehavebeenanumberofattemptstoprovidetechnicalsolutionstotheproblemsposedbythe
internet,andtoprovidegreatercontroltoparentsinlimitingthecontentthattheirchildrenareableto
see.Filteringsystemsaretypicallysetbytheparentorguardian,andenableself-regulationoftheir
child’sexperience.Alternatively,therehaverecentlybeenmovementsinnetwork-levelblocking–for
exampleBT’sCleanFeed–whichblockcertainsitesforawholerangeofusers,orevenentire
countries.

Filtering
Filteringcanrangefrombeingveryrestrictive–forexamplebylimitinguseto‘walledgardens’,which
allowaccessonlytoanumberofpre-screenedsites,tobeinglessso–forexample,byusing‘key
word’filtersthatsearchforkeywordsconsideredunacceptableandblockingsitesaccordingly.
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Keywordfiltersmayseemausefulsolution,buttheyarealsosubjecttotheproblemof‘false-
positives’–inotherwords,theyblock‘innocent’sitescontainingoffendingwordsinalegitimate
context.Ironically,thiswasexperiencedbymembersoftheHouseofCommons,whenParliament’s
ownfilteringsystemblockedcontentreferringtotheSexualOffencesBill.
Filteringsystemsareavailablefairlycheaply,butparents’knowledgeofthemissparse.Thishasledto
callsfromchildsafetycampaignersthatfilteringsystemsshouldbeinstalledintoeachnewcomputer
asstandard,andsetatthehighestlevel(CHIS2004).Criticsarguethatthisisnotnecessary,andsay
thatlimitingfunctionalityanduseabilitytosuchadegreerisksreturningtheinternettothe‘dark
ages’(Sweney2008).Filteringsystemscanalsovaryinquality.TheHomeOfficehasbeenworking
withtheBritishStandardsAssociation(BSA)todevelopa‘kitemark’forfilteringsystemssothat
parentsknowtheyliveuptocertainstandards.

Labelling
Afurtherenhancementtofilteringsystemsiscombiningthemwithlabellingsystemsthatindicatethe
‘type’ofcontentthatusersareattemptingtoaccess.Perhapsthebest-knownlabellingsystemisthat
providedbytheUSFamilyOnlineSafetyInstitute(FOSI),whichcontinuestodeveloplabelsystems
offeredbytheInternetContentRationAssociation(ICRA).Thisinitiativewasfirstlaunchedin1999,
andisafree-of-chargelabellingsystemthatseekstobeinternationallyapplicablebyusing‘cross-
culturallanguage’.
ItworksbyinvitingwebsiteownerstovisittheICRAwebsiteandcompleteaquestionnaireaboutthe
contentontheirsite.Allthequestionsareofthe‘yes/no’varietyandcoverthepresenceofnudity,
sexualcontent,inappropriatelanguageandsoon.Oncethequestionnairehasbeencompleted,the
ICRAsystemgeneratesalabelthatcanbeaddedtothemeta-tagofthewebsite.Thisessentiallyacts
asacomputer-readabledescriptionofthecontentcontainedbythesite.
ParentsareabletosetaccessrestrictionsinaccordancewiththeICRAlabellingquestionnaireandfilter
contentonthisbasis.Forinstance,theycanspecifythatallcontentcontainingnudityorinappropriate
languageshouldbeblocked.Thefilterwillonlyblockaccesstocontentthathasactuallybeen
labelled,sothesystemreliesonwebsitepublishersvolunteeringtheirsiteforratingandundertaking
thistask.Parentsarealsogiventheoptionoffilteringallnon-labelledcontent,thoughthisislikelyto
vastlyrestricttheamountofcontenttowhichayoungpersoncangainaccess.

Network-levelblocking
Severalcountrieshaveengagedinblockingatanetworklevel.Forinstance,Pakistanrecentlybanned
YouTubeduetothepresenceofcontentdeemedoffensive.Chinablocksanumberofsitesona
country-widebasis.
TheUKinternetindustrydoesengageinnetwork-levelblockingprimarilytostopaccesstosites
knowntoregularlycontainchild-abuseimages.TheCleanFeedsystem,developedbyBT,was
introducedin2004andworksagainstalistofrepeatoffenderwebsitesdrawnupbytheIWF.Whena
userattemptstoaccessasiteonthislist,anerrormessageisreturnedsayingthatthepagecannotbe
found.Whilethesystemrecordshowmanytimesaccessisattempted,nofurtherlegalorinvestigatory
actionistaken.
ThreeweeksafterlaunchingCleanfeed,BTreported250,000accessattemptshadbeenblocked.The
systemhasnonethelessbeenthesubjectofsomecriticism.Onitsintroduction,therewereconcerns
thatcontentwouldjustmoveelsewhereandthatultimatelytheIWFwouldbeforeverinvolvedina
gameof‘catandmouse’intryingtoensurethataccesstoillegalcontentofthiskindiscutoff.There
werealsoconcernsthatcontentwouldinsteadbysharedincreasinglyoverpeer-to-peernetworks,
makingitultimatelymoredifficulttodiscoverandtrace.
Themostrecentsuggestiontoimprovethesafetyoftheinternetwhileengaginginnetwork-level
blockingorfilteringwasraisedinaparliamentarydebate.ConservativeMPHugoSwiresuggestedthe
creationofan‘internetclearinghouse’,whichitselfwould‘buildadynamicfilterandcreateablacklist
databasewhichwouldbeupdatedhourly’(Hansard2008).Thisblacklistwouldworkalongthesame
50 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

linesasBT’sCleanFeedbutwouldhaveanexpandedremittoincludesitesthatglorifiedviolenceand
terrorism,pornography,cyberbullying,suicide,internetgamblingandanorexiawebsites.
Thefiltercouldthenbeusedtooffertwochoicesofcontent:oneforadultsandoneforchildren,with
thedefaultsettingbeingthechildoffering.
Thisisnotthefirsttimesuchasolutionhasbeenoffered,anditisnotlikelytobethelast.Butasour
explorationoftheeffectivenessoflawenforcementonlineshows,solutionsthatmayseemsimplein
offlinecontextsarenoteasilyoreffectivelytransferredonline,foranumberreasons.
Inthefirstplace,theinternetclearinghousewouldlikelyhavetobeanorganisationofmammoth
proportionsinorderthattheblacklistcouldbekeptanywaynearuptodate.Itwouldalsohaveto
takeafairlyblanketapproach,banningwholesitesratherthanindividualpiecesofcontentwithin
sites.Ifitsremitdidincludesitesthatglorifiedviolenceorcyberbullying,YouTubewouldcertainly
havetobeblacklisted,duetothefactthatsomevideospostedonlinebreachcommunityguidelinesin
thismanner.
Moreover,thisoptionwouldseemtoofferaverybluntdistinctionbetweencontentsuitablefor
‘children’–inotherwords,thosebelow16or18–andthatsuitableforadults.Ourresearch
highlightsthedifficultiesinjudgingwhatcontentissuitableornotfordifferentagegroupsupto18.
Suchanapproachrisksmakingtheinternetessentiallyunappealingtoyoungpeopleandminimising
riskstotheextentthatopportunitiesarealsoheavilyquashed.
Finally,suchanapproachagainfocusesontheregulationofcontentasthemostpressingissuein
seekingtoprotectyoungpeopleonline.Again,itisimperativethatwemovebeyondthislimited
thinking,towardsabetterunderstandingofhowwemayinfluencemorepositiveexperiencesof
engagement.Thisisthemorechallenging,butarguablymoreimportant,areathatpublicpolicymust
considerhowtotackle.

Summary
Therearecleardifficultiesinsimplyattemptingtotransfertodigitaltechnologiesaformofregulation
designedforanofflineoranaloguecontext–particularlyinthecaseoftheinternet.Thisisespecially
truewhenwerememberthatbroadcastregulationhaslongbeensetalongnationalboundaries,
whereastheinternetisaglobalphenomenon,withcontentandopportunitiesemergingfromaround
theworld.Whilethelawcanprovideaframework,thejobof‘regulating’theinternet–thatis,
minimisingthepresenceofillegal,harmfuloroffensivecontentandthelevelsofillegal,harmfulor
offensiveactivityonline–cannotbeleftsolelytogovernmentandlawenforcement.Foronething,
thecostwouldbeprohibitive.Foranother,suchanapproachwouldrarelybesuccessful.
Self-andco-regulationcanbeeffectiveinsomecontexts,ascanfilteringsystemsadoptedbyparents,
andtheresponsibilitymustbesharedbetweenindustry,government,parentsandusersthemselves.
Wemustalsoaskourselveswhetherthisbalanceiscurrentlyfairlydistributed,andwhethereachparty
hastakenontheirfairshare.Insomeareaswhereyoungpeopleareconcerned,therightbalanceis
currentlymissing.
Oneofthelargestgapsinprovisionisthefactthatthereiscurrentlynogovernmentbodythathas
clearresponsibilityforthisagenda.Instead,severalgovernmentdepartmentshaveaninterestin
differentareas,andworkcontinuesalongthesedepartmentallines.Thishasanimpactonmonitoring
standards,onsuggestingactionfromindustry,andonbuildingcapacityofusersandparents.Thereis
alsosomeconfusionregardingthenumberofbodiesthatcoverinternetcontentinsomeformor
other–forexample,thePressComplaintsCommission(PCC)fornewscontentonline,theASAfor
advertisingonline,theBBCTrustforBBCcontent–andsomesensethatthepiecemealsystemweare
busybuildingupisbecomingfartoocomplexandlacksasinglebodytooverseeallthisactivity.
Therealitiesoftheinternet’stechnologicalstructuremeanthattheresponsibilitytoprovideasafe
environmentmustbeextendedbeyondlawenforcementandformalregulatorybodies.Industryhasa
significantroletoplayinpromotinggoodpracticeandhelpingdesignandenforceworkable
guidelines.Ontheotherhand,industrycannotdoitall.Thefactisthattheinternetisatechnology
51 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

affordingtheuseragreatdealofchoiceandfreedom.Users,ortheguardiansofusers,musttake
someresponsibilityforthechoicestheymakeandtheactionstheytake.
Overall,wheretheinternetisconcerned,itisimportanttomaintainrealisticexpectationsofwhatwe
canandcannotdo.Theinternetisnevergoingtobeanentirelyrisk-freeenvironment.Justassome
preyonvulnerablepeopleinreallife,soaretheresomepeoplewhowillseektodosoonline.No
youngpersoncanbeentirelyprotectedfromcontentorpeoplewhomaydothemharm,buttherisks
canbeminimised.
Thesuccessofself-andco-regulationreliesonusersthemselvesbeingabletomakeinformed
decisions:being‘medialiterate’inthewaytheyaccessandusecontentandinformation.Inthe
followingchapter,welookathowmedia-literacyeducationandtrainingisprogressingintheUK,and
outlineareasinwhichitmaybefurtherdevelopedstill.
52 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

4.Learningbydoing:empoweringyoungpeoplethroughmedia
practice
Regulationcannotsolveallofthechallengeswecurrentlyface.Themedialandscapeinadigitalerais
soradicallydifferenttothatofanaloguetimesthatthelevelsofcontrolandsupervisionwehave
cometoexpectmaynotsurvivemuchlonger.Asdiscussedinpreviouschapters,thelevelsofeditorial
controlthatcouldonceservetopreventyoungpeoplefromaccessingcontentdeemedunsuitableor
age-inappropriatecannolongerbeeffectivelyapplied.Thetechnologicalrestrictionsthatare
sometimesputinplacecanoftenpresentlittlemorethan‘speedbumps’whichcanbeovercomeif
someoneseekingmaterialisdeterminedenough.
Thechangesinautonomyandsupervisionofaccessmeanthatthelevelsandresponsibilityof
regulationareshifting.Thelackofacentralpointofcontrolshiftsresponsibilitytoindustryplayers,
butthenatureoftheinternet–andtheautonomythatusersexerciseovertheirownexperience–
meansthatthisresponsibilityissharedfurtherdownthesupplychain,withusersthemselves.This
meansthatparentsandeducatorsalikehaveanextendeddutytoenableyoungpeopletobuildtheir
skillsetsothattheycanmanagetheirownexperienceeffectively.Thissetofskillsisoftengrouped
undertheheadingof‘medialiteracy’.
Meanwhile,whileyoungpeopleareabletomanagetheirexperiencesonlinetoacertainextent,there
aresomeareasinwhichtheirexperienceisnotenough.Ourresearchshowsthereareclearlygapsthat
couldbefilledbymediaeducationofoneformoranother.
Inthischapterweconsiderhowthemedia-literacyagendahasbeenprogressingintheUK,lookingat
thecurrentapproachemployedbyOfcom.Wethenmoveontolookatwheremedialiteracystill
needstobeimproved,consideringwhatkindsofskillsneedtobelearnedandthebestplacefor
teachingthem.

Thecurrentapproachtomedialiteracy
UndertheCommunicationsAct2003,Ofcomisgivenadutytopromotemedialiteracy.Thereisno
singleagreeddefinitionofwhatmedialiteracyactuallyis,butOfcomdefinesitas‘theabilityto
access,understandandcreatecommunicationsinavarietyofcontexts’(Ofcom2004:2).
Wewilllookatthecurrentapproachtomedialiteracyintermsofaccess,understandingandcreating
media.
Access
AsdiscussedinChapter1,almosttwothirdsof8-to15-year-oldsnowhaveaccesstotheinternetat
home.Outsideofthehome,99percentofschoolshaveinternetconnections.Accessisalsoavailable
atlibraries,communitycentresandinternetcafés.
TheUKhaslongbeenheadingintherightdirectionasfarasuniversalaccesstotheinternetis
concerned.Butthisdoesnotmeanthatthedigitaldivideisathingofthepast.
Recentresearchshowsthataroundonethirdofthepopulationaredigitallyexcluded(Duttonand
Helsper2007).Itisoftenassumedthatthisfigurelargelyrelatestoolderpopulationgroups.However,
11percentof16-to24-year-oldsdonotusetheinternet(UKOnline2007).Clearly,digitalexclusion
isnotjustaboutaccess,instead‘itencompassesawidersetofissuessurroundingcontent,skills,and
thewidersocialconsequencesoftheincreasinguseofICTinallaspectsoflife’(SocialExclusionUnit
2005:11).
Digitalexclusionfollowsdistributionalpatternsofwideraspectsofsocialexclusion.Forinstance,over
halfofunemployedpeoplearedigitallyexcluded,asare44percentofsingleparents(OXIS2007).
Researchshowsthatmiddle-classchildrenarefarmorelikelytohavehomeaccess(Livingstoneetal
2005).
Toovercomethis,someschoolshaveexperimentedwithlaptop-leasingschemes,enablingaccessto
technologyatlowercost.Theseschemeshavebeenlargelysuccessful(CabinetOffice2005)and,in
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response,theGovernmenthasannouncedatwo-year,£60million‘computerforpupils’programmeto
enablethemostdisadvantagepupilstohaveacomputerathome.
Theothersideofthe‘access’equationisaccesstoinformationitself,ratherthansimplythe
technology.Justoveronefifthof9-to19-year-oldswhogoonlineatleastweeklysaytheyalways
findwhattheyarelookingfor.Themajority(68percent)saytheycanusuallyfindtheinformation
theyneed,9percentsaytheycannotalwaysfindit,and1percentsaytheyoftencannotfind
informationrelevanttotheirneeds(LivingstoneandBober2005).
Olderchildren,thosefrommiddle-classbackgroundsandthosewhosaytheyhavehigherskilllevels
aremorelikelytoreportbeingabletofindtheinformationtheyarelookingforonline(ibid).
Understanding
Aswehavepreviouslynoted,youngpeople’scriticalinterpretationsofinternetcontentarelimited.
Researchshowsthattheytendtoacceptinformationonfacevalue,withtwointhree12-to15-year-
oldswhohavetheinternetathometrustingmostofwhattheyfindonline(Ofcom2006a).Lessthan
onethird(31percent)of12-15swhousetheinternetathomesaytheymakeanychecksonnew
websites(fromapromptedlistofchecks,includinghowuptodatetheinformationis,cross-
referencingacrossotherwebsitestocheckiftheinformationiscorrect,andlookingintowhohas
createdthewebsiteandforwhatpurpose)(ibid).
Atadeeperlevel,ourresearchshowscleargapsinyoungpeople’sunderstandingofthe
consequencesoftheironlineactivities.Thisgenerationisindangerofbecomingthemosttransparent
andopeninhistory:youthfulindiscretionscanberecordedeasily,andmaybestoredandmade
availableforseveralyearstocome.Thereisverylittleunderstandingofwhocoulduseinformationin
thefuture,andforwhatpurpose.
Wherebullyingonlineisconcerned,alackofawarenessofthecompoundingimpactofonline
distributionontheextentofanindividual’shumiliationissomethingthatshouldbeaddressed.Some
youngpeopleseemtooverlooktheadditionalharmcausedtoapersonbyhavingtheirhumiliation
playedoutrepeatedlyonsitessuchasYouTube,tohundredsifnotthousandsofspectators.
Thereisanurgentneedtoencouragewithinyoungpeopleagreaterunderstandingofhowandwhen
informationisinterpretedbyaudiences–anotionofan‘imaginedaudience’–inordertoenable
youngpeopletotakewiderresponsibilityfortheirpersonalprivacyonline.
Creatingmedia
Perhapsthelargestgapinyoungpeople’smedialiteracyasdefinedbyOfcomistheextenttowhich
theyareinvolvedincreatingmediathemselves.
Theopportunitiesforcreatingmediaarenowreadilyavailable.Toolsarecheapandeasilyaccessible
and,indeed,wherevideo-recordingequipmentorinternetaccessandsoftwareisconcerned,currently
inthehandsofmanyyoungpeople(Ofcom2006a).Yet,atpresent,levelsofcreativityarelow.While
youngpeoplewillregularlyengageindevelopingtheirMySpacepage–makingitattractive,adding
contentandsoon–veryfewyoungpeoplegobeyondthis.Onlyonethirdofyoungpeoplereport
havingtriedtosetupawebpage(LivingstoneandBober2005).
Ourresearchshowedthatacrossallagegroups,participantsdidnotcreatecontentontheinternet
apartfromwhencreatingandmaintainingsocialnetworkingsite(SNS)profiles.Creatingand
maintainingwebsiteswasconsideredtobetoocomplicatedandinvolvingtoomucheffort.
Participantsalsoreportedthatfriendswhohadsetupwebsiteshadreceivednegative,abusive
feedback,andsaidthatthisputthemoff:
[Oncreatingwebsites]‘Ittakestoomuchtime.’(Boy,14,C2DE)
‘Myfriend…hasone[awebsite]andsheleavespicturesofherfriendsandpeople
postcommentslike“Thisone’sugly”,andit’sjustlike–whywouldyouwanttodo
that?’(Girl,15,C2DE)
54 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

‘Ifpeopledon’tlikeit…they’llstartmuggingitandtheywon’tleaveitalone.’(Boy,
15,ABC1)
Whiledigitalevangelistshaveoftenheraldedthedigitalageinwhichanyonecancaptureavideoon
theirmobilephoneandquicklypostittovideo-sharingwebsitessuchasYouTube,wefoundthatit
wasstillfarmorecommonforparticipantstoviewvideosthantocreatecontent.While17-18year
oldsweremostlikelytohavecreatedtheirownvideos,thesewereoftenforsocialpurposes,suchas
sharingjokeswithinfriendshipgroups:
‘Ithinkyoucandoit[putavideoonYouTube]yourself,butIdon’tknowhow.’(Boy,
14,ABC1)
‘Ifyouweregoingtodoiteveryday[puttingyourownvideosonline]youwouldn’t
reallyhavemuchofalife.’(Girl,14,ABC1)
Itisclear,then,thatyoungpeoplearenotlikelytotakeuptheopportunitiesaffordedbydigital
mediatobecreativewithoutsomedegreeofguidanceandencouragement.Muchofyoungpeople’s
lackofenthusiasmforundertakingsuchworkisduetothefactthattheysimplyconsideritfartoo
difficult.Faceretal describesettingupwebpagesasan‘exoticactivity’,withonly9percentof
youngpeoplehavingengagedinweb-designactivities(Faceretal 2003).Incomparison,modifying
pagesonSNSsismucheasier,anditistothistaskthatyoungpeopledevotealargeproportionof
theironlinetime.

Improvingmedialiteracy
Havingexaminedthecurrentsituation,itisclearthatthereisstillscopetoimproveyoungpeople’s
medialiteracy.Partofthisincludesensuringuniversalaccesstotechnologyandgovernmentinitiatives
shouldbepromotedaswidelyaspossibletomakesurethattheopportunitiesaretakenup.
Butifwearegoingtopromoteuniversalaccess,itmustbeaccompaniedbythoroughmedia-literacy
education.Attemptstoteachmedialiteracycanvarygreatlyinpractice.Atitsleastambitious,
educationcanrevolvearoundsimpleICTskills.Atthemoreambitiousandinnovativerangeofthe
scale,itisrecognisedthatthethreecomponentsofOfcom’smedia-literacydefinitionareclosely
linkedandthat‘inprinciple,creativeactivitynecessarilyinvolvesthekindofskillsandunderstandings
[featuredinthemedia-literacydefinition];anditmightalsobeexpectedtoassistintheirfurther
development’(Buckingham2005b).
Welookatwhatcanbedonefirstatconsideringtheimportanceoflearningthroughdoing.Wethen
examineanumberoffactorsthathaveanimpactonyoungpeopleandconsidertherolesthatthey
couldplaytostrengthenyoungpeople’smedialiteracy:schools,thevoluntaryandcommunitysector,
governmentactivities,andinformalroutessuchasviaparentsandpeers.
Learningthroughdoing
Researchshowsthatcreatingmediaiseffectiveinenablingyoungpeopletodevelopmedia-literacy
skills,andcanbemoresuccessfulthanattemptingtosimplyteachconceptsthatareimportanttofull
understanding.AsdeBlocketal (2004:4)explain:
‘Throughmakingmediathemselveschildrenalsodevelopagreaterunderstandingof
mediagenerally.Theirperceptionsofthemediaintheireverydaylivestakesadifferent
light.Whattheywatch,playorreadisnolongerdistantandelevatedbuttheydevelop
astrongsenseofaudienceandofcritique.’
Asenseofthe‘imaginedaudience’isimportantparticularlywhenweconsideryoungpeople’slackof
reflexivityintheironlinebehaviours–particularlywhereissuessuchasbullyingandprotectingone’s
privacyareconcerned.Thissenseprovidesanopportunityforyoungpeopleto‘workthrough’certain
issuesthatareimportantformoraldevelopmentandunderstanding.Makingmediacanalsohelp
youngpeopleunderstandhowmediaiscreated,andhowmessagesaredevelopedandtailoredtothe
audienceinquestion.Indoingso,thepracticecanhelptodevelopcriticalskills.Thesebecomemore
importantwhenyoungpeoplearefacedwithanabundanceofinformationandwiththechallengeof
knowingwhattotrust,whattotakeasfactandwhattotakeasexpressedopinion.
55 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Thisapproachoflearningbydoinghasothersignificantbenefits–forexample,thepromotionofself-
esteemandanopportunityforincreasingthevoiceofyoungpeople(Goodman2003).Thiscanbe
particularlyimportantwheredisadvantagedyoungpeopleareconcerned–forexample,opportunities
forcreatingmediahavebeenshowntohelpimprovemotivationfordisaffectedyoungboys(Kirwinet
al 2003).
Thisapproachcanalsohelpyoungpeoplestrengthentheirvoicewithregardtothingsthatmatterto
them.Thereiscurrentlyagreatdealofconcernattheapparentapatheticnatureofyoungpeople.
Youngpeoplearenowlesslikelytovotethaneverbefore(KeaneyandRogers2006),anddeep
cynicismisnowtheprevailingattitudeamongmanyyoungpeopleintheUK(LewisandGreenberg
2007).Thereisalsofirmevidenceofmanyyoungpeople’sdisengagementfrommainstreamnews.The
numberofyoungpeoplewhosaytheyonlyfollowthenewswhensomethingimportantishappening
hasleaptfrom33to50percentinthepastfiveyears(Ofcom2007a).Twothirdsofyoungpeople
alsoagreewiththeviewthat‘muchofthenewsonTVisnotrelevanttome’(ibid),andactively
distancethemselvesfromit.
Engagementwithnewsmediaisacrucialpartofactivecitizenship:evidenceshowsthatvotingis
positivelycorrelatedwithnewsviewing(Norris1996),whilethemassmediaremainsthekeychannel
throughwhichpeoplecanaccessthepublicrealmandpoliticaldebate(seeDahlgren1996forafull
discussion).
Itisimperativethatweseeknewwaystoengageyoungpeopleindebateanddiscussioninorderto
haltdeclinesinpoliticalparticipationandcivicengagement.Increasingtheirvoicehasbeenapolicy
concernforseveralyearsandnewinitiativesareseekingtoensurethatchildrencaninfluencethe
decisionsthataffectthem,forexamplethroughdistributingyouthbudgetsdevolvedfromlocal
authorities.
Now,wearenotattemptingtoclaimthatinvolvementincreatingmediacanresolvetheentrenched
problemofyoungpeople’sdisaffectionwithpolitics,norbethesolewayinwhichyoungpeople
shouldmaketheirvoiceheard.Butthereareclearopportunitiestohelpyoungpeoplecreatecontent
whichisrelevanttotheirlivesandcommunitiesandtoengageyoungpeopleintheworldaround
themandcapturetheirviewsandideas.
Inshort,media-literacytrainingofthiskindcanempowerchildrenascitizens,notsimplyasmore
informedconsumers.Butwhilethiskindofcreativeactivityhappensinsomeareas,itisfarfroma
universalopportunityextendedtoallyoungpeople.Sincetheconceptofmedialiteracywas
introducedintolawthroughtheCommunicationsAct(2003),therehavebeenrepeateddiscussionsas
towheremedialiteracy‘fits’.Thereareanumberofprovidersthatcouldpotentiallydeliveramedia-
literacyagendaofthiskind,buttherehasbeenlittledirectionofwherewouldbemostsuitable.
Theroleofschools
TheQualificationsandCurriculumAuthority(QCA)developsthenationalcurriculum,which‘defines
theknowledge,understandingandskillstowhichchildrenandyoungpeopleareentitled’(from
www.qca.org.uk).Medialiteracyhasnoformalplaceinthecurriculum,butthereareopportunities
acrosssubjectareastoincludeaspectsofmedialiteracy.Inthefirstplace,useofICTisarequirement
inthesecondarycurriculumandremainsarequiredsubjectthroughKeyStage4.
ICT,CitizenshipandEnglishprovidethemostobviousopportunitiesformedia-literacyeducation.For
example:
• TheICTsyllabus expectspupilstobechargedwith‘exploringthewaysthatICTcanbeusedto
communicate,collaborateandshareideasonaglobalscale’aswellas,‘recognisingissuesofrisk,
safetyandresponsibilitysurroundingtheuseofICTand‘recognisingthatinformationmustnot
betakenatfacevalue,butmustbeanalysedandevaluatedtotakeaccountofitspurpose,
author,currencyandcontext’.
• Thecitizenshipsyllabus statesthatstudyshouldinclude‘theroleofthemediaininforming
andinfluencingpublicopinionandholdingthoseinpowertoaccount’(KeyStage3).Inthisarea,
56 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

thecurriculumshouldalsoprovideopportunitiesforpupilstoworkwitharangeofcommunity
partnersandto‘useandinterpretdifferentmediaandICTbothassourcesofinformationandasa
meansofcommunicatingideas’.
• Englishteaching hasalonghistoryofdrawingonavarietyofmediatexts,andthisapproach
continuestoformpartofthecurriculum.
Alongsidethis,mediaeducationcantakeplaceexplicitlywithinmediastudiescoursestakenatGCSE
orALevel.
Nevertheless,thescopeforincreasingthelevelsofmedia-literacyteachingwithinschoolsislimited.
Thecurriculumisalreadynotedasbeingfairlycrowded,anddespitethepossibilityforincludingthese
skillsincitizenshipeducation,therearealsoagreatmanyotheraspectsofcitizenshiptocover.Across
therangeofagenciesthatmayhavearoleinpromotingmedialiteracyintheformaleducationarena
–theQCA,localeducationauthorities(LEAs),theBritishEducationCommunicationsTechnology
Agency(Becta)andtheTeacherDevelopmentAgency–nonehavemedialiteracyastheirprimary
focus.Eachofthesebodiesclearlyhashigherpriorities.
Whiletherearerecognisedareasofgoodpractice,teachingisnowherenearuniversal.Itcanoften
dependontheskillsandcapabilitiesofteacherexpertise,aswellasthelevelofaccesstosuitable
resources(Kirwanetal 2003).And,while8-to11-year-oldsarehappytolearnmediaskillsfrom
teachersorparents,nearlyhalfof12-to15-year-oldsprefertolearnaboutthemediafromtheirpeers
(Ofcom2006a).
Thecapacityforyoungpeopletobuildtheirmedialiteracyatschoolisalsoimpactedbythelevelof
restrictionsthatschoolsplaceontechnologyuse.Severalschoolsbanaccesstosocialnetworking
sites,orplacesignificantrestrictionsonuseofequipmentoutsideofaformaleducationprogramme.
Suchpracticesarguablyhampertheextenttowhichschoolsthemselvescanassistinbridgingthe
digitaldivide,byprovidingaccessforthosewhodonothaveitathome,andallowingtheseyoung
peopletoexplorethesocialaspectsofthistechnology(HollowayandValentine2003).
Theroleofthevoluntaryandcommunitysector
Anumberoforganisationshavearoleinpromotingmedialiteracyacrosstheinformalsector.Manyof
theseareincludedassignatoriestotheMediaLiteracyCharter(at
www.medialiteracy.org.uk/taskforce/)developedbytheMediaLiteracyTaskForce–anorganisation
thatbringstogethertheBBC,theBritishBoardofFilmClassification,theBritishFilmInstitute,
Channel4,ITV,theMediaEducationAssociation,TheUKFilmCouncilandSkillset.
TheMediaLiteracyCharterisarelativelyshortdocumentoutlininganumberofprinciplestowhich
signatoriescommitthemselves.Theseinclude‘supportingtheprinciplethateveryUKcitizenofany
ageshouldhaveopportunities,inbothformalandinformaleducation,todeveloptheskillsand
knowledgenecessarytoincreasetheirenjoyment,understandingandexplorationofthemedia’and
‘encouraging,enablingorofferingopportunitiesforpeople’todeveloptheirskillssetwheremediais
concerned,includingbeingableto‘identify,andavoidorchallenge,mediacontentandservicesthat
maybeunsolicited,offensiveorharmful’.
Signatoriestothecharterincludespecialistmediaorganisations,mediacollegesandyouth
organisations,allofwhichhavearoleindeliveringmedialiteracyintheinformalsector.
Acrossthepiece,theinformalsectorhasahandindeliveringout-of-schoolmedia-relatedactivities.
Themajorityhaveacommitmenttoencouragingthedevelopmentofyoungpeople’sskills,primarily
throughlearningbydoing.Inaddition,thereisalargecommunitymediasectorintheUK
encompassingorganisationsthatproduceradioandtelevisionprogrammingandinternetcontent.Still,
provisionisfarfromuniversal.
Communitymediaandyouthmediaprojectsoftensharemanyfeaturesincommon,butperhapsthe
mostprominentisaninsecure,andoftenhaphazard,fundingbase.Ininterviewswitharangeof
mediapractitionersfromSouthwestEngland,manyexpressedfrustrationsthatagreatdealoftheir
timewasspentseekingfunding,andthattheshort-termnatureoffundingreceivedoftenmeantthey
57 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

wereunabletoprovideacontinualordevelopmentalprogrammefortheyoungpeopleinvolved.
Instead,projectswereepisodicanddiscrete.Otherresearchreportsconcurthatacrossthesectorthere
isalackofstrategic,long-termfunding.Therearealsofewforumsforsharingexpertiseand
experienceandestablishingbestpractice(Kirwinetal 2003).
ThereisarangeofbodiesthatfundactivitiesintheUK.TheseincludetheArtsCouncil,Creative
Partnerships,theUKFilmCouncil(throughitsRegionalScreenAgencies)andgrant-makingbodies,
suchasFirstLight.In2006,theGovernmentlaunchedMediaBox–a£6millionfundaimedat
fundingmediaactivitiesamongyoungpeople.Butthemajorityofthismoneyishotlycontested,or
canoftenbefocusedtowardsoutcomesorprojectsthatdonotspecificallyinvolveteachingmedia
literacy.
Forexample,MediaBoxexplicitlystipulatesthatgrantmoneycannotbedirectedtowardsfunding
adultsupervisionoryouthworkers’involvementinmediaprojects:theprojectsmustbeled,managed
anddeliveredbyyoungpeoplethemselves.Whilethiscanoffermanybenefits,itmissesoutonthe
opportunitiesthatcanbegainedfromadultsupervision–particularlyfrommediapractitioners,who
mayhavesignificantexpertisetoshare.Ourevidencesuggeststhatmostyoungpeoplerequiresome
degreeofencouragementandguidanceinordertosuccessfullydelivermediaprojectsandtobecome
active‘creators’,ratherthanjustconsumersofmedia.
Theroleofgovernment
Ifanewmedia-literacyagendaistohaveimpact,itwillneedgreatercoordinationanddirection,with
adegreeofassurancethatmedia-literacyteachingwillbeapriorityatsomelevel.Currently,Ofcomis
responsiblefor‘promoting’themedia-literacyagenda.Thismayhavemadesensewhenthe
CommunicationsActfirstmaterialisedas,sinceinternetcontentwasexcludedfromtheAct,some
systemwasneededtoensurethattheneedsofcitizensinanewmediaenvironmentwereatthevery
leastbeingconsidered.ButOfcomhaslittlepowertobebold,ortomakesubstantialcommitmentsto
deliveringonthisagenda.
Medialiteracyshouldnotsolelybeconcernedwithyoungpeople,butitisyoungpeoplewhoare
thoughttobemostvulnerablewhererisksposedbytheinternetareconcerned.Ifwearegoingto
provideyoungpeoplewiththeskillstoensuretheironlineexperiencesarepositive,medialiteracy
musthaveaplaceinyoungpeople’sformativeyears–particularlyduringperiodsofadolescence,
whentheyaremostlikelytopursuerisksforsocialgain,andwherethemediaisincreasinglybecoming
thetoolofchoice.Medialiteracyshouldbegivenhigherprioritywithingovernmentandplaced
directlywithinthedepartmentwiththewherewithaltoensurerelevantpartiesaredeliveringonthe
agenda–theDepartmentforChildren,SchoolsandFamilies(DCSF).
Theroleofparents
Ofcourse,itisnotonlyexternalorganisationsthathavearoleindevelopingchildren’scapabilitiesin
thisarea.Parentscontinuetohavearoleinmaintainingthesafetyoftheirchildrenwheremediais
concerned,justasinotheraspectsoftheirchild’slife.
Threequartersofparentswithchildrenagedbetween8and11reportfeelingworriedabouttheir
childseeinginappropriatethingsontheinternet.Forparentsof12-to15-year-olds,thisfigurefalls
justslightlyto72percent(Ofcom2006a).However,parentsarelikelytounderstateinternetrisksfor
theirchild,withonly16percentbelievingthattheirchildhascomeintocontactwithonline
pornography,comparedto57percentofyoungpeoplewhosaythattheyhave(Livingstoneand
Bober2005).Meanwhile,twothirdsofparentsofchildrenwithinthisagegroupsaythattheirchild
knowsmoreaboutusingtheinternetthantheydo.
Theabilityofparentstodealwithyoungpeople’sexperiencesandprovideinstructionandguidanceis
fairlylimited.Whilemorethanhalfhavesomeformoffilteringsysteminstalled,fewparentshave
specificrulesastohowtheirchildrenshouldusetheinternet(ibid).Thisreflectstheresultsofour
research,inwhichyoungpeoplereportedveryfewparentalrestrictionsandverylittleparental
awarenessoftheironlineactivities.
58 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Table4.1:Parentalrulesandpracticestorestrictyoungpeople’sinternetuse
Typeofrule Activity Percentageofparents
whoundertakeactivity
Privacyrestrictions Tellchildnotto:
•giveoutpersonalinformationonline 86%
•buyanythingonline 77%
•usechatrooms 62%
•filloutonlineformsorquizzes 57%
•downloadthings 24%
Peer-to-peerrestrictions Tellchildnotto:
•useinstantmessaging 24%
•playgamesonline 10%
•useemail 11%
Supportivepractices(overt •Askchildwhathe/shedidorisdoingontheinternet 81%
monitoringorco-using) •Keepaneyeonthescreenwhenthechildisontheinternet 63%
•Helpchildwhenhe/sheisontheinternet 57%
•Stayinthesameroomaschildusingtheinternet 50%
•Sitwithchildandgoonlinetogether 32%
Checkingup(covert •Checkthecomputerlatertoseewhatthechildvisited 41%
monitoring) •Checkthemessagesinthechild’semailaccount 25%
Source:AdaptedfromLivingstoneandBober2005

Table4.1illustratesthetypesandfrequencyofparentalrulesandpractices,showingthatparentsare
morelikelytoengageinprivacyrestrictionsalthoughsomesupportivepractices,suchasusingthe
internetalongwiththeirchild,arealsocommon.
ThepracticesshowninTable4.1aremorelikelytobeputinplacefor9-to11-year-oldsthanfor
olderagegroups.Therewasnodifferenceinregulationappliedtogirlsandboys,noranydifferences
onthebasisofsocio-economicstatus(ibid).
Whilethereappearstobenodirectrelationshipbetweenimplementingmoreorlessregulationand
theopportunitiesandrisksthatchildrenencounteronline,anindirectrelationshipisapparent.
Parentalregulationisshowntobepositivelyrelatedtochildren’sinternetskills:childrenwhoseparents
havemorerulesinplacetendtousetheinternetmoreandgainmoreskills(Livingstoneetal 2005).
Intermsofthetypesofregulationinplace,supportivepracticesareshowntoincreasetheonline
opportunitiesofchildren,whilelimitsinpeer-to-peeractivityminimisebothopportunitiesandrisks
(ibid).Supportivepracticesmaybedependentonparents’owninternetskills,andherea‘digital
divide’stemmingfromparents’workandeducationalexperiencescanhaveaneffect(Faceretal
2003).
Therearesignificantdiscrepanciesbetweenwhatregulationsparentssaytheyhaveinplaceregarding
mediauseinthehome,andwhatchildrenactuallyreport(Buckingham2005b).Asourevidence
shows,youngpeopleareproficientinside-steppingtechnicalregulations,andareunawareofany
specificregulatorypracticesinplace.Whatismore,parentalregulationsareshowntobecomeless
effectivewithage,withinterventionin9-11-year-oldshavingthemostsignificantimpact(Livingstone
etal 2005).
Clearly,parentscanhavearoleinheighteningtheirchild’smedialiteracy–particularlyatyounger
ages–butthisisrelatedtotheparents’ownskilllevel:wherethisislacking,morerestrictivepractices
maybeputinplacethatcanlimitthebenefitsthatyoungpeoplecanreapfrominternetaccess.
Evidenceshowsthatinsomekeyareasofconcern,suchasbullying,parentshavelittleideaofhowto
dealwithproblemswhenreported(Livingstoneetal 2004),andatendencytooveract(forinstance,
byremovinginternetaccessaltogether)maydecreasethelikelihoodofthechildreportingissueswhen
andwheretheydoarise.
59 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Itisimportant,then,thatwedonotneglectparentswhendevisinginformationcampaignstoincrease
medialiteracyandminimiserisks.Thisdoesnotmeanheighteningawarenessoftherangeoffiltering
mechanismsavailable,butratherconcentratingonbuildingparents’capacitytodeliverasupportive
onlineexperience–particularlyforyoungerchildren.Thisisinpartpredicatedbyparents’ownlevelof
ICTskill,sosupportinthisareashouldalsofocusonhelpingparentsdevelopusefulskillsindealing
withinnovationsinnewmediasotheycanunderstandandreacttotheirchildren’sexperiencesand
behavioursonline.
Theroleofpeers
Evidenceshowsthatyoungpeoplearemostlikelytogotoafriendiftheyhaveaproblemtheyneed
todiscuss(DCSF2007).Wehaveseenalsothatwheredigitalmediaisconcerned,youngpeopleare
mostlikelytowanttolearnfromtheirpeers.
Thepotentialroleofyoungpeopleinbuildingeachother’smedialiteracy,andinsupportingeach
otherwhenproblemsarise,tendstobeneglectedinfavourofanemphasisoncyberbullying,happy
slappinganduser-generatedcontent.Butpeersformanimportantpartofyoungpeople’s
socialisation,andbecomemoresoduringthetransitiontoadulthood.
TheGovernmenthasrecentlyannouncedfurtherfundingforpilotsexploringtheroleofpeer
mentoringforyoungpeopleexperiencingbullying.Suchpilotscouldbeextendedtoanonline
context,withtrainingprovidedforolderpupilsandolderwebsiteuserstoprovideadvice.Youth
servicesalsohavearoleinhelpingpeerstosupporteachother.Youthservicescanprovidean
importantframeworkthroughwhichsupportivepracticesmaybedelivered,providedthattheyouth
workersthemselveshaveadequateunderstandingofthetechnologiesandtheexperiencesofyoung
people.
Peersareextremelyimportantgiventhattheveryessenceofmany‘Web2.0’innovations(thatis,
servicesthatfacilitatecreativityandinformation-sharingamongusers)isthecollaborationthattakes
placebetweenusersthemselves.Bebo,MySpace,YouTube,Facebookandotherpopularsitesshould
agreetoprovidematerialrelatedtopeersupport,andofferopportunitiesforqualifiedadvicefor
youngpeopleexperiencingproblemsonline.Ofcourse,gettingthisrightwillnotbeeasy,andour
researchfoundthatyoungpeoplewereveryawareofwhenadviceorinformationwebsiteswere
‘talkingdown’tothemorwereaimedatpeopleyoungerthanthem.Nonetheless,somesitesdogetit
right:ourworkshopparticipantshighlyratedboththeYouthInformationwebsite
(www.youthinformation.com)andFrank(www.talktofrank.com).Thesesitesshouldbeusedasmodels
forextendingadviceprovisionforproblemsexperiencedbyyoungpeopleintheonlineworld.

Summary
Becauseformalregulationaloneisnotfullyeffective,theinternetrequiresadifferentapproach:one
thatinvolvesparents,guardians,educatorsandusersjustasitinvolvesindustryandgovernment.
Medialiteracyisacrucialpartofthiscollaborativesolution.
Thereisacommonviewthatyoungpeople’sunderstandingfarexceedsthatofadults.Often,where
technicalproficiencyisconcerned,thismaywellbetrue.However,thereareclearexampleswherethe
opportunitiesofferedbydigitaltechnologies,whencoupledwithyoungpeople’stechnicalexpertise,
farexceedyoungpeople’sconceptualunderstanding.
Increasingyoungpeople’sawarenesstoenablethemtobemorereflectiveabouttheironline
behaviour,anditsimpact,shouldbeapriorityofmedialiteracy.Encouragingyoungpeopletocreate
mediathemselveswillenablethemtodevelopthenecessaryskills,aswellasdeliveringotherbenefits
suchasincreasedself-esteemandmotivation.
Ourcurrentmedia-literacyframeworkisnotambitiousenough.Thereiscurrentlynoguaranteethat
media-literacyteachinginschoolsisreachingyoungpeople,andtheschoolcurriculumisalreadyso
crowdedanyexpectationofformaleducationofthiskindisunrealistic.However,ourattemptat
‘promoting’medialiteracydoesnotmakebestuseoftheexpertisethatisalreadyavailable–
particularlyamongthevoluntaryandcommunitysector.Arangeoforganisationsexistthatwouldbe
60 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

abletodeliveradynamicmedia-literacyprogrammethatwouldbebothattractiveandusefultoyoung
people.Itisimportantthatwetakestepstoexploitthepotentialofthosebodiesmostreadyto
providethisfacility.
Finally,theroleofparentsandpeersshouldnotbeoverlooked.Theseindividualsaremostlikelytobe
usefulatdifferentdevelopmentalstagesofyoungpeople’smediause(parentsforyoungerchildren
andpeersforolderteenagers),andsafetyandempowermentcampaignsshouldmakesuretheyare
factoredintoanysuccessfuldeliveryprogramme.
Inthefinalchapter,weoutlinewhereamoreambitiousmedia-literacyprogrammewouldfitintoa
newstrategy,alongsidebroaderrecommendationsforgovernmentandindustry.
61 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

5.Conclusionandrecommendations
TheGovernmenthaslongbeenconcernedabouttheplaceofmediaineverydaylife,andits
impact.Theseconcernshavetendedtobefocusedonitseffectofyoungpeople,whoareseenas
themostimpressionableandvulnerablepeopleinsociety.Tosomeextent,theinternetpresents
merelythenextstageinanongoingcycleofpanicabouttheinfluenceofthemedia,whichhas
encompassedcomicbooks,films,televisionprogrammes,andcomputergames,eachofwhichhas
atsomestagebeenaccusedofhavingthepotentialtoharmormorallycorruptchildrenandyoung
people.
Therehasneverbeenanyfirmevidencethatthemediacanhavethelevelofpowerthatwe
attributetoit.Butdespitethis,regulatorymethodshavetendedtoerronthesideofcautionand
restrictaccesstosomecontentonthebasisofprotection.Thisapproachissofirmlyingrainedin
oursocietythatprotectionistinterventionssuchasthewatershedcontinuetogainwidespread
support–notleastfromparentsbutalsofromyoungpeoplethemselves.
Whileweshouldnottreattheinternetassodramaticallydifferentatechnologythatwethrowout
allexperienceandresearchthathasgonebefore,itdoes,arguably,requireadifferentapproach.
Thegreatestchallengeistomovefromthepreviousmodel,whichchieflyconsideredtheimpactof
contenttoanewonethatconsiderstheimpactofengagementthroughmedia,andtoseekto
influencethisinawaythatleadstopositiveexperiencesforyoungpeople.
Ashiftofthisnaturedemandsthatregulationcannotbedevisedanddirectedinascentralaway
asithasbeenbefore:thereisnoone,clearbodytowhichwecanattributeresponsibilityandthat
wecansimpleleavetogetonwithit.Instead,weneedapartnershipapproachthatencompasses
allrelevantparties:includingusersthemselves,parents,thecommercialsector,thevoluntaryand
communitysectorandnationalgovernmentsandbeyond,tointernationalstandardsand
cooperation.
Theprocessiscertainlymorecomplicatedthantheexistingsystem,butaresponsibilitysharedin
thismannershouldnotsolelybeseenasanextraandundesiredburden.Itisalsosymbolicofone
ofthegreatestfeaturesoftheinternet:thefactthatitisademocratictool,enablinguserstogain
suchcontrolovertheirmediaexperiencethattheycannotonlychoosewhattoconsume,and
whenandwheretoconsumeit,butcanalsoaddtheirvoiceandopiniontothemassof
informationandentertainmentthatisoutthere.
Theapproachadvocatedinthisreportistorespectthisgreat,liberatingfeatureoftheinternet
andnottocurtailopportunitiesinthepursuitofremovingrisksentirely.Usingtheinternetwill
alwaysprovideacertainlevelofrisk,justasdoescrossingthestreetoranynumberofotherdaily
activities.Itisimportantthatgovernmentisrealisticinitsexpectations,andintheexpectations
thatittransferstoparentsconcernedfortheirchildren.
Itisalsoimportantthatthesebenefitscontinuetobehighlighted.Thisiswheremedialiteracy
shouldtakeanempoweringapproach,encouragingyoungpeopletotrulyengagewiththewealth
ofopportunitiesdigitaltechnologiespresent,butwithadultguidanceandexpertadvicetoensure
thattheirunderstandingcancatchupwithexpertise.
Ourrecommendationsarebrokendownintothosethatapplytogovernment,industry,educators,
parentsandusersrespectively.Takenacrossthepiece,theywillenhanceyoungpeople’sonline
experienceswhileenablingriskstobeminimised.However,theseresponsesshouldalsobeseenas
aworkinprogress:thedemands,experiencesandbehavioursofaudienceswillchangeintime.In
thefirstplace,itisimportantthatwetakethenecessarysteps,outlinedabove,toestablisha
frameworkthatcanreactinasensible,appropriateandtimelyfashiontothesechanges.Without
thisframework,wewillcontinuallybeinreactivemode,swayedbymedia-drivenmoralpanics,and
neglectingtoprotectandprepareyoungpeoplesufficientlyforthedigitalworldtheyareleftto
navigate.
62 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Recommendationsforgovernment
1.Ofcomshouldbechargedwithproducinganannualreportdetailingtheeffectiveness
ofexistingself-andco-regulatoryregimes.
Ofcomcurrentlyhasadutytopromoteself-andco-regulatoryschemes.Inordertomakesure
actionwhereinternetcontentanduseisconcernediscoordinatedandcomprehensive,Ofcom
shouldproduceadedicatedannualreportdetailingtheeffectivenessofschemesandidentifying
wheretherearegapsinprovision.Governmentcanthentakeaviewofwhereindustryshouldtake
furtheraction.Ifthisisnotforthcoming,governmentshouldconsideralternativeregulatory
approaches.
2.ResponsibilityformedialiteracyshouldbegiventotheDepartmentforSchools,
ChildrenandFamilies.
Responsibilityforthemedia-literacyagenda–andforidentifyingthewaysinwhichyoungpeople
engagethroughmedia–shouldbemovedtotheDepartmentforChildren,SchoolsandFamilies
(DCSF).Medialiteracyhassofarsufferedfromalackofengagementinthisquarter,butitisthis
departmentthathastodealwiththeeffectsofalackofmedialiteracy–includingbullyingonline,
childsafetyandsoon.ProvidingtheDCSFwiththisnewresponsibilitywillenableittoengage
schools,aswellasteachertrainingcolleges,youthservicesandfamilies,inbuildingthecapacityof
youngpeopletogetthebestoutoftheironlineexperience.
TheDCSFshouldalsosetupanadvisorygroup,consistingofyoungpeopleandtheChildren’s
Commissioner,toprovideadviceandguidanceinthisarea.Thiswouldemphasisetheimportance
ofyoungpeople’sparticipationasactivecitizensinthemediaspace,andwouldprovideauseful
opportunityforyoungpeoplethemselvesprovidinginputandadvicetothepolicyprocess.
3.Consultationshouldbedrivenforwardontheextentofcorporatesocialresponsibility
toyouthinonlineenvironments.
TheDCSFneedstoleadtheagendaintermsofunderstandingtheroleofcorporatesocial
responsibilitywhereraisingyouthisconcerned.ThismeansconsideringtherolesnotonlyofISPs,
mobileoperatorsandotherstowhomweregularlyattachtheterm‘industry’,butalsoofawider
rangeofcommercialintereststhatseektoengagewithyoungpeopleinsocialspaceslargely
unmediatedbyadults.TheDCSFshouldseektodriveforwardpolicyinthisarea,inconsultation
withthecorporatesector,consumerorganisationsandrepresentatives,alongsideparentsand,
mostimportantly,youngpeoplethemselves,andtaskthecorporatesectorwithdrawingupa
definitionofcorporatesocialresponsibilitythatcanthenbeappliedtoengagementwithyoung
peopleinthedigitalmediaspace.

Recommendationsforindustry
Webelievetherearegroundstoaskindustrytodomoretoprotectyoungpeopleandenhance
theirexperienceonline.Industryhasalreadyrecogniseditsroleinsettingstandardsforuser
behaviourintheformofacceptableusepoliciesorcommunityguidelines.However,thesearenot
largelyrecognisedbymanyusers.
1.Providersofinternetservicespopularwithyoungpeopleshoulddevelopapan-
industrycodeofrightsandresponsibilities.ThisshouldbereviewedbyOfcom.
Thereisarangeofshortandlong-termactionsthatindustryshouldtake,andthatgovernment
shouldencourage.Intheshortterm,werecommendthatprovidersofservicesregularlyusedby
youngpeople(forinstancesocialnetworkingsites)bebroughttogetherundertheauspicesof
Ofcom,theDepartmentforCulture,MediaANandSport(DCMS)andDCSF,todevelopapan-
industrycodeforsocialnetworkingsitesanduser-generatedcontentwebsites,outliningtherights
andresponsibilitiesofusersandindustry.Theyshouldtakeadvicefromconsumerbodies,
academicsandotherrelevantorganisations.Oncetheprincipleshavebeendrawnupandagreed,
theyshouldbereviewedbyOfcomtoensureproperscrutiny.
63 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

2.Industryshouldco-sponsorabodyresponsibleformonitoringcodecomplianceand
commissioningfurtherresearch.
Industryshouldco-sponsorabodyresponsibleformonitoringcodecompliance.Thisbodyshould
collatedataontherateandnatureofcontentcomplaintsandtheextenttowhichthesewere
satisfactorilydealtwithbytheorganisationconcerned.Whilethisbodyshouldnotencourage
unrealisticexpectations–forinstance,wewouldnotexpectittobea‘clearinghouse’forall
complaints,nortoensurethatcodebreacheswerestoppedpre-emptively–itcouldnonetheless
conductusefulresearch,particularlyinunderstandingwhere,whenandwhycontinualbreachesofthe
codetookplaceandensuringthatnecessaryactionwastaken.
3.Age-restrictionmechanismsshouldbemorerobustandusedmorewidely.
Industryandgovernmentneedtoworktogethertoconsiderwhenandwheremoreeffectiveage-
restrictionmechanismsshouldbeintroducedtoonlinecontent.Solongasweacceptthataccessto
somecontentshouldberestrictedtoyoungpeople,onthebasisofthepotentialharmordistressit
maycause,mechanismstoenforcethisshouldbemorewidelydeployed,orthecontentremoved.This
isparticularlyapplicableforwebsitessuchasYouTube,whichoftenrestrictsaccessonthebasisofage
butverifiesthisonthebasisofaself-reportedbirthdate.
Onlineage-verificationschemesaregrowinginnumber.Itisnottheremitofthisreportto
recommendoneaboveanother,ortorecommendthattheGovernmentbeinvolvedinprovidinga
standardwherethereisanevolvingmarket.Nonetheless,thereisastrongargumentthatage
verificationhasnotbeentakenasseriouslyforadultcontentthatsitswithinpopularsitesasithasfor
gamblingsites,forinstance.Suchcontent,wheremarked,shouldeitherberemovedorarelevant
verificationprocedureshouldbeintroduced.
Beyondthis,socialnetworkingsitesshouldtakegreatercaretobuildanunderstandingofthe
practicesoftheirusers,andthedisincentivestocomplyingwithageverificationprocedures.
4.Advertisingshouldberestrictedonthebasisoftheproportionofyoungusersofasite.
Wherethereisevidencetosuggestthatasizeableportionofasites’usersareunder16,advertising
shouldberestrictedacrossthesite.ThusonsocialnetworksitessuchasBebo,junkfoodadvertising
shouldbecurtailed,justasitisinabroadcastenvironment.
5.Industrymembersshouldworktogethertodevelopacodeofpracticeforsocial
networkingsitesinrelationtoadvertisingandyoungpeople.
Providersofsocialnetworkingsitesaimedatyoungpeople,andotherenvironmentsthatarepopular
amongunder-16sshouldworkwiththeAdvertisingStandardsAgencytodeviseanextensiontothe
currentCodeofPracticeinordertoprotectyoungpeopleinthesespaces.Inparticular,itshouldseek
toprovidestrictguidelinesondistinguishingbetweenadvertisingandeditorialcontentandon
engagingyoungpeopletofurthercirculatepromotionalmaterialandcontent.Thedemarcation
betweenadvertisingmaterialandeditorialisextremelyweak,andanewbalancemustbestruck
betweentheneedsofsitestogenerateincomethroughadvertisingandtheprotectionofyoung
peoplefromexcessiveconsumerism.
Therangeofnewwaysinwhichadvertiserscanengagewithyoungpeopleusingsocialnetworking
sitesraisestheimportanceofunderstandingthecorporatesector’sroleinprovidingaresponsibleand
positiveexperienceofconsumerismforyoungpeople.Inthelongterm,providersofsocialnetworking
sitesandbrandswhoseektoadvertiseonlineshouldengagewithgovernmentdiscussionsregarding
theroleofthecorporatesectorinrelationtotheextentofitsinfluenceonyoungpeople–again,with
theaimofdevelopinganewdoctrineofcorporatesocialresponsibilitythatappliestothisarea.
6.NewsocialnetworkingservicesjointheInternetWatchFoundation.
Allprovidersofservicesthatareregularlyusedbyyoungpeopleshouldbecomemembersofthe
InternetWatchFoundationandcontributefinanciallytoitswork.Currently,somesocialnetworking
sitesarenotmembersandthuscontributenothingtotheworkoftheorganisation,althoughthey
continuetobenefitimmenselyfromtheimportantroleitplays.
64 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

Recommendationsforeducation
1.TheDepartmentforSchools,ChildrenandFamiliesshouldseektorevitalisethemedia
literacyprogrammeanddelivereducationthroughtheExtendedSchoolsprogrammeand
theten-yearYouthStrategy.
Thecurrentmedia-literacyagendalacksasenseofpurposeandambition.Itneedsbothgreater
fundingandagreatersenseofdirectiontopushitthroughandbuildwithinparentsandusersthe
skillstheyneedinordertobeabletotakefulladvantageoftheopportunitiesofferedinadigitalage.
Thereiscurrentlylittlescopeorappetiteforintroducingformalmedia-literacyteachingintotheschool
curriculum.Neitherisitclearthatthiswouldbeasuccess:sofar,teachinginthisareahasverymuch
dependedontheskillsoftheteachersthemselves–whichcanbevariable.TheExtendedSchool
programme,whichaimstoenableeveryschooltoofferafter-schoolactivitiestochildrenandyoung
peopleby2010,offersanopportunitytobridgesomeofthesegapsbyprovidingafter-school
activitiesthatenableyoungpeopletocreatemedia.
Inaddition,theten-yearYouthStrategyprovidesopportunitiesforsimilaractivitiestobedelivered
throughyouthclubs,withthesupportofyouthworkerswithexperienceinthisfield.Whencombined,
thesetwoinitiativeswillprovideampleopportunityforyoungpeopletobesupportedindeveloping
media-literacyskillsinwaysthatareattractiveandinterestingtothem.
2.Governmentshouldcoordinatetheexpertiseofexistingcommunitymediaandinformal
mediawithschoolstoprovidemedia-literacyteaching.
Theexistingcommunitymediaandinformalsectorsalreadyprovidethepotentialexpertiseneeded,
butcoordinationwithschoolshas,uptonow,beenlacking,despitethefactthatsomecommunity
mediaisjustasimportanttoyoungpeopleasitistoadultcounterparts.Resourcesshouldbedirected
towardscoordinatingthesometimesdisparateactivitiesoftheinformalmedia,communitymediaand
after-schoolinitiatives.
Thereisevidencetosuggestthatthisapproachwillbebothpopularandattractivetoyoungpeopleas
wellasenablingthemtobuildskillsinsomeoftheareasinwhichtheyarecurrentlylacking–in
particular,encouragingyoungpeopletobecomemorereflectiveoftheactionstheyundertakeonline.
3.Projectsshouldbecarefullyevaluatedandbestpracticewidelyshared.
Anationalbody(reportingtotheDCSF)shouldbeputinplacetobuildtheevidencebaseforbest
practice,assessprojectsonarangeofcriteria(notsimplyheadcounts)andrewardsuccess.Thereis
currentlynoevaluativecriterionforsuccessfulmedia-literacyinitiatives,noranysystemforrewarding
excellenceamongschoolsandschoolpupils.TheGovernment’screativelearningprogrammeCreative
Partnershipsshouldbeinvestedwiththeresourcesitneedstoestablishaframeworkofthisnatureon
anationalbasis.
4.Governmentshouldnotoverlooktheneedsofparents.
Particularlywhereyoungerchildrenareconcerned,parentsplayanimportantroleinsupportingyoung
people’searlyexperiencesonline.Itisimportantthattheyfeelconfidentintheirskillsetinorderto
providethesupportandadvicethattheirchildrenmayneed.Parentalinformationcampaignsshould
notfocussolelyonthenegativesthatinternetaccesscanoccasionallybring,butshouldalsoprovide
examplesofpositiveexercisesthatyoungpeoplecanundertakewiththeirparentsinordertoexplore
notionsofrisk,privacyandpersonalsafetyinabalancedandpracticalway.
5.Informationandlearningopportunitiesforparentsshouldbeavailablethroughexisting
initiativessuchasSureStartandtheExtendedSchoolsProgramme.
Reachingparentsremainsadifficultchallenge.However,theGovernment’sagendaforsupporting
parents,outlinedinTheChildren’sPlan(DCSF2007),providesanopportunitytoensurethat
informationisavailableforparentswhenandwheretheywantit.Medialiteracyinitiativesaimedat
encouragingparentstoengageinsupportiveonlineactivitiesalongsideyoungpeopleshouldbe
deliveredthroughexistinginitiatives,suchasSureStartandtheExtendedSchoolsprogramme.
65 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

6.Traditionalbroadcastersshouldtakearoleindeliveringpositivemedia-literacy
information.
Theroleofthosetraditionalbroadcastersthatareincreasinglyprominentinonlineenvironments
shouldnotbeoverlooked.TheBBCandChannel4arestillhighlytrustedbrands,andcertainlyhavea
roletoplayindeliveringeducationalcontenttoenableparentsandyoungpeopletobettercopewith
navigatingadigitalenvironment.Ratherthanfocusingonthenegativesofinternetuse–inparticular,
concernsaroundchildsafety–theyshouldbecomefullyinvolvedindeliveringmedia-literacy
initiativesandinformationtoparents,tohelpthembettersupportyoungpeopleonline.
7.Peersshouldbeencouragedandsupportedinprovidingadviceandinformationonline.
WesupporttheGovernment’spilotingofschemesinvolvingpeersinsupportingyoungpeoplewho
arebeingbullied,andrecommendthatindustry,educatorsandgovernmentseektoexplorewherethe
adviceandsupport-givingroleofpeerscanbefurtherexploredinanonlinecontextandtheroleof
youthservicesinenablingthis.
Theroleofonlineadvicecentreshasnotbeenfullyexploredinthisreport.However,wehaveseen
evidencethat,particularlywherehealthandsexualhealthisconcerned,theinternetcanbeauseful
toolforyoungpeople.Giventherangeofinformationoutthere,andthefactthatnotallofitmaybe
reliable,werecommendthattheGovernmentconsidersexpandingtheremitofFrank,thedrugs
advicehelpline(abrandthatispopularandtrustedbyyoungpeople)inotherareas–mosturgently,
insexualhealth.

Summary
Theserecommendations,ifimplemented,wouldgosomewayinrespondingnotonlytosubstantive
concernsaboutyouthengagementwiththeinternet,butalsotowiderpublicconcernsabouttherole
ofthisentityinsociety.
Assuggestedintheopeninglinesofthischapter,itissomethingofatraditioninoursocietyto
bemoantheharmfuleffectsonmediaconsumptionontheyoung.Thisconcernisnotdifficultto
understand.Mediainallforms–butperhapsespeciallytheinternet–isinonesensenothingmore
thanatwistedmirror,whichreflectsbackatus,inconcentratedform,theaspectsofoursocietythat
wemostdetestandreject:anobsessionwithpornography,voyeurism,bitchinessandgossip,violence
andcruelty–and,worse,thepassiveacceptanceofallthesethings.
Therealityisthatwewillneversucceedinremovingallthesedistastefulelementsfrommedia,
becausetheyoriginateinsocietyitself.Butwecanensurethatchildrenandyoungpeopleare
protectedfromthem,untiltheyarereadytonavigatethemostdistastefulaspectsoftheonlineworld
forthemselves,andmaketheirowninformeddecisionsaboutwhattheyfindusefulandenjoyableor
damagingandunpleasant.
66 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

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Appendix1:Researchmethodology–deliberativeworkshops
WeconductedthreedeliberativeworkshopswithyoungpeopleinthreeareasofLondon:Southwark
andCamdenininnerLondonandTwickenhaminouterLondon.Eachworkshopwasheldwitha
differentagegroup:years8-9(aged13-14),years10-11(aged15-16)andyears12-13(aged17-
18).Twelveyoungpeopleparticipatedineachgroup.Theworkshopswereeachthreehourslong,and
wereheldinJuly2007.Eachparticipantwaspaidasanincentivetoattend.

Recruitment
Participantswererecruitedusingareputablemarketresearchrecruitmentagency.Participantswere
recruitedinfriendshippairs,toincreasetheirconfidencewithinthegroupsandtoincreasethe
likelihoodthattheywouldattend.
Alltheparticipantshadbroadbandaccessandmobilephones.Thiswaspartlytoensurethatno
participantfeltexcluded,butalsobecausethefocusoftheresearchwasonuseoftheinternetrather
thanaccesstoit.
Deliberativetechniquesbringtogetherabroadlydemographicallyrepresentativesampleofthe
population.Thethreeworkshopswererecruitedtoincludethefullrangeofsocio-economicgroups.
Socio-economicgroupsweredeterminedbytheoccupationofthechiefincomeearnerinthe
participants’household.Werecognisethatthismethodfordeterminingsocio-economicgroupis
simplistic.However,becausethisresearchinvolvedarelativelysmallnumberofdeliberativegroupswe
wereclearfromtheoutsetthattherewouldbelimitedscopefordrawingcomparativeconclusions
betweensocio-economicgroups.Wethereforemadeapragmaticdecisionthatthismethodwas
sufficientforthisproject.
Theworkshopswerealsorecruitedtobebroadlyrepresentativeoftheethnicmake-upofeach
borough,andtohavea50/50splitofboysandgirls.

Deliberativeworkshops
Deliberativeworkshopsareheldoveralongerperiodoftimethanfocusgroups.Thishasanumberof
advantages.Thelongerlengthoftimeprovidesgreateropportunityfordifferentparticipantsto
expresstheirviewsfully,withconfidence,anditprovidesagreateropportunityfordiscussionand
debatewithpeers.
Eachworkshopincludedlargegroupdiscussions,smallbreak-outgroupdiscussions,asessioninwhich
groupmemberswereaskedtheiropinionofparticularwebsites,andasessioninwhichthebreak-out
groupswerepresentedwithvariousfictionalscenariosandaskedtocompareandcommentonthem.
Thismethodologyenabledustounderstandhowparticipantsarticulatetheirattitudesanduseofthe
internetwithintheirpeergroup,andhowtheirviewschangewhenpresentedwithinformationand
challengedbypeers.
Byusingfictionalscenarios,wewereabletointroducearangeofsensitiveissuesaroundrisk,privacy
andsafetyinawaythatdidnotfeeltoopersonal.Wefoundthatoncetheseissueshadbeen
introducedinthisway,manyparticipantsdidsharesensitivepersonalexperiences.
Theuseofdeliberativeworkshopswithyoungpeopledoesraisespecificmethodologicalissues.In
analysingthesefindings,itisimportanttoacknowledgethatpeer-groupdynamicsinfluencedtheway
thatparticipantspresentedtheirviewsandattitudeswithintheworkshops.However,whiletheway
thatparticipantsdiscussedissuesmightdifferfromthekindofdatageneratedinaone-to-one
setting,suchasaninterview,deliberativeworkshopsspecificallyenabledustoanalysetheshared
normsthatgovernyoungpeople’suseoftheinternet–includingtheprocessesbywhichthesenorms
arenegotiatedandinterpreted.
Asmentionedabove,thisresearchaimedtounderstandinternetusefromtheperspectiveofyoung
peoplethemselvesand,assuch,itwasimportanttoavoidintroducingdistinctlyadultterminologyand
frameworksintothegroupdiscussions.Whendevelopingandusingthediscussionguidesforthe
74 ippr|BehindtheScreen:Thehiddenlifeofyouthonline

groups,wewereparticularlycarefultoavoidintroducinganytermscarryingparticularmoralor
politicalconnotationsforadults,unlesstheparticipantsthemselveshadusedthislanguage.For
example,wespecificallyavoidedusingthelanguageof‘risk’or‘cyberbullying’unlessparticipants
introducedthetermsthemselves.Wheretheydid,wewerecarefultoexploreanddrawoutwhatthey
meantbytheseterms.
Wedo,however,recognisethatthereisaninherentandinevitablecontradictioninourattemptnotto
imposeparticularframeworksonthediscussions,giventhatmanyofourinitialresearchquestions
(suchasthoserelatingtoattitudestorisk)weredeterminedby‘adult’-drivenpolicyconcerns.
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Appendix2:Groupprofiles
Thisappendixsetsouttheprofilesofthevariousgroupsofparticipants,listedbylocation.
LondonBoroughofSouthwark(years8-9/ages12–14)
Thereweresixmalesandsixfemalesinthisgroup.Allsocio-economicgroupswererepresented,split
between50percentABC1and50percentC2DE.(Forabreakdownofthesegroupings,see
Appendix3.)Thegroupwasalsorecruitedtoberoughlyrepresentativeoftheethnicmake-upofthe
borough,so50percentofparticipantsinthisgroupwerefromminorityethnicbackgrounds.
LondonBoroughofCamden(years10-11/ages14–16)
Thereweresixmalesandsixfemalesinthisgroup,andallsocio-economicgroupswererepresented
apartfromSEGA.WehadanticipatedthatitmightbeproblematictorecruitparticipantsfromSEGA
inthisborough,soweensuredthatthegroupwasbalancedbetween50percentofparticipantsfrom
ABC1and50percentofparticipantsC2DEinthegroup.Theethnicmake-upofthegroupwas
roughlyrepresentativeoftheborough,so50percentofparticipantswerefromminorityethnic
backgrounds.
Participantsinthissessionappearedtohavebeenrecruitedinfriendshipgroupsratherthanin
friendshippairs.Thefactthatanumberofparticipantsseemedtoknoweachothermaywellhave
influencedthenatureandcontentofthelargegroupdiscussions,althoughitisdifficulttojudgethe
extentoftheeffect.
Twickenham,GreaterLondon(years12-13/ages16–18)
Thereweresixmalesandsixfemalesinthisgroup.Allsocio-economicgroupswererepresented,split
between50percentABC1and50percentC2DE.Thegroupwasalsorecruitedtoberoughly
representativeoftheethnicmake-upofthetown,so25percentofparticipantsinthisgroupwere
fromminorityethnicbackgrounds.
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Appendix3:Socialclasses
Socialgrade Socialstatus Occupation
A Uppermiddleclass Highermanagerial,administrativeorprofessional
B Middleclass Intermediatemanagerial,administrativeorprofessional
C1 Lowermiddleclass Supervisoryorclerical,juniormanagerial,administrativeor
professional
C2 Skilledworkingclass Skilledmanualworkers
D Workingclass Semiandunskilledmanualworkers
E Thoseatlowestlevelofsubsistence Statepensionersorwidows(nootherearner),casualor
lowest-gradeworkers