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Some of the most interesting data to be added to the Europe edition of our Internet Statistics Compendium this month focuses on how children are using the internet across the continent.

As social networking becomes more commonplace among adults and mobile technologies give all users more opportunity to get online without computer access, how are children responding to increased connectivity and more pull factors to use digital services?

Last month, the London School of Economics published their EU Kids Online report into European children's use, risk and safety online. The data clarifies many assumptions about how children are responding to online developments, but there are plenty of surprises too.

General trends

The first surprise is the number of countries where daily internet use among youngsters is more frequent than that of their parents.

Today, all but 10 European countries see their children go online daily significantly more often than their parents.

The relationship between children's and parent's daily internet use

This is interesting, as the general opinion of the internet among European children is not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, with just 34% of nine and 10 year olds saying there are lots of good things for their age group to do online.

Additionally, there are positive statistics in regards to the countries where children go online more regularly. The UK, Netherlands and Belgium are among the 13 countries where youngsters go online more often than the European average and develop more skills for doing so.

Social and mobile adoption

With 40% of nine to 16 year olds having looked for new friends online, unsurprisingly, social media is popular with children in Europe.

Even the nine to 12 age group (the youngest of the LSE study) sees 38% with a social media profile, while 77% of 13-16 year olds say they have a profile on a social networking site.

Balance between younger and older children using SNSs

Certain age groups are more willing to flout rules against using social media imposed by their parents. For example, as many as 20% of European 13 year olds whose parents don't allow social networking have admitted to having a profile anyway.

Mobile technology is certainly aiding these trends. In Greece, 50% of children go online in their bedrooms while nearly 80% access the internet via mobile devices. 

By comparison, children in Denmark are the most likely in Europe to go online in their bedrooms, but mobile internet use is less than 40% (below the European average).

Protection, safety and privacy

While the social aspect of internet use is an increasing lure for children, just 9% of European children admit to meeting up with people in real life who they first met online and 11% of those have been bothered or upset by the experience.

When it comes to negative content online, there are significant differences between countries in terms of how bothered young people are by it. For instance, children in Finland and Denmark see similar amounts of negative online material, but those in Denmark are far more likely to be upset by it.

Across Europe however, bullying affects children online most. 31% of European 11-16 year olds say they are very upset by online bullying and countries with higher instances of offline bullying see the most evidence of it taking place via internet channels.

There is also an interesting correlation between those who said they bully while being a victim of bullying. Comparatively, just 4% of non-bullies have been victims of online bullying, while 40% of those who bully online have been bullied back.

EU Kids Online - bullying

Yet, the LSE data which is perhaps of most interest to parents, trend watchers and digital specialists relates to the increasing abilities of European children to be able to control their online lives, by learning skills to lessen risk of being upset.

Children with more online skills experience less harm online. Nearly half of children block those that upset them, while 55% of 11-12 year olds who use Facebook know how to change privacy settings.

EU Kids Online - changing privacy settings & blocking

There is certainly an increasing desire among children to use social channels, and more of an opportunity for them to do so independently and without being granted permission. But it might not be too long before parents will be asking their kids how best to avoid negative content online.

Luke Richards

Published 7 October, 2011 by Luke Richards

Luke Richards is a freelance writer and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog

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