Do questions matter on children’s answers about internet risk and safety?

Special issue: Children in cyberspace: Opportunities, risks and safety

This article aims at understanding the construction of online risk and safety among children addressing the lack of research on children’s discourses on their internet experiences. The analysis compares the perceptions of Portuguese children (9-16) based on an open-ended question about online risk from the EU Kids Online survey and two open-ended questions about online safety from a survey of disadvantaged children. Theoretically, the article combines constructionist perspectives on risk with the framework and matrix used in EU Kids Online project. Methodological tools from cognitive sciences and from critical discourse analysis were used to explore children’s answers. These theories and methods contributed to capture children’s own discourses on online risk and safety, which are complex, often ambivalent and affected by hegemonic public discourses expressing media panics and fears. The analysis made visible how different wordings of questions may lead to different answers and to distinctive children’s positions, from apparently excluded of the risk situations to keen advisors of their peers on online safety.

EU Kids Online; children and the Internet; online risk; qualitative methods; critical discourse analysis
Author biographies

Cristina Ponte

Author photo Cristina Ponte, PhD and Habilitation in Media and Journalism Studies, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, at the New University of Lisbon (FCSH-UNL) and a researcher at CIMJ. Her main research areas include children and media, media and generations, digital inclusion. Coordinating the Portuguese team in the EU Kids Online Project and a Working Group in the COST Action IS0906 on Audiences, she is currently vice-chair of the ECREA Working Group on Children, Youth and Media.

José Alberto Simões

Author photo José Alberto Simões, PhD in Sociology, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the New University of Lisbon (FCSH-UNL) and a researcher at CESNOVA. His main research areas include sociology of culture, youth cultures and communication and media studies. He has written or co-edited four books.

Ana Jorge

Author photo Ana Jorge is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Guest Assistant Professor in New University of Lisbon, studying children and media. She holds a Media and Journalism Studies PhD from the same university and a Masters in Sociology of Communication from ISCTE, Lisbon. She takes part in RadioActive101 project (2013-14) and EU Kids Online network (2008-14).

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