Highlights from a recent Eurobarometer survey of differences in parental attitudes towards internet use among children

In the northern EU Member States, a higher percentage of parents report that their children use the Internet than in the southern ones. The percentage is 64% in Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK, 63% in Sweden, and 62% in Finland. In Greece and Portugal, it is 15% and 31% respectively.

From parents’ replies, it appears that children do not have uniform access to the Internet at school across the EU. The percentage of children using the Internet at school exceeds 40% in Sweden (54%), Denmark (53%) the UK (51%), the Netherlands (49%), Finland (45%) and Luxembourg (41%), it is only 8% in Greece and 11% in Italy.

Half of Europe’s parents do not think their children know what to do if a situation on the internet makes them uncomfortable. In the northern countries, the majority of parents say their children know what to do if a situation on the Internet makes them feel uncomfortable (55% in the UK, 54% in the Netherlands, 51% in Finland, 48% in Sweden, 47% in Denmark and 41% in Germany). In Spain, Austria and Portugal, over 30% of parents cannot answer the question. A substantial share of parents seem not to be aware of the risks that their child may encounter on the Internet. Moreover, only 11% of these parents impose rules for internet use.

Parents impose rules differently according to the gender of their children. Girls are more likely than boys to have rules imposed on them for television (43%, as against 41% for boys) and the use of mobile phones (23%, as against 19%). Boys are more likely to have rules imposed on them for electronic games (26%, as against 16% for the girls) and computers (20%, as against 16%).

Where do parents want their children to learn internet safety? School is the first choice of 42% of parents within the EU. Preference for school as a source of internet safety information is highest (over 50%) among parents who think their children use the internet at school. Parents themselves prefer to get internet safety information on TV (44% of those polled). The next choice is newspapers (31%). Preference for TV as a source of such information is highest amongst the Greeks, the Portuguese and the Italians (67%, 57% and 54% respectively). The British, Luxemburgers and Dutch would prefer to receive a letter (60%, 57% and 53% respectively). Newspapers get the highest score in Finland (45%).

Lack of information about where, or to whom, to report illegal or harmful content on the Internet. Many respondents (38%) admit they do not know whom to go to and 19% cannot give an answer. Of those who say they do know, 37% would go to the police. Only 8% would contact the internet service provider and 5% would call hotlines. Hotlines allow members of the public to report illegal content and pass the reports on to the appropriate body for action (internet service provider, police or hotline correspondent).