Collective effort needed to help children thrive following exposure to online risks

Published by  News archive

On 30th Sep 2022

A young girl using a mobile phone.
Getty images

Helping children become more ‘digitally resilient’ needs to be a collective effort if they are to learn how to “thrive online”, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.


Digital resilience is the capability to learn how to recognise, manage and recover from online risks - such as bullying and inappropriate content - and has the potential to buffer how these experiences may impact young people’s wellbeing. Until now, research has not examined how digital resilience can be built and shown by children beyond focusing on the individual child.

This new study argues that activating digital resilience needs to be undertaken as a “collective endeavour”, involving the child, their parents/carers within home environments, youth workers, teachers, and schools at a community level, along with governments, policymakers, and internet corporations at a societal level.

It finds that digital resilience operates across these different levels, which are critical to help children learn how to recognise, manage, recover and, depending on the support available, grow following experiences of online risks.

Importantly, digital resilience across these levels and areas are not mutually exclusive but reinforce and operate on each other. As a result, say the researchers, collective responsibility must be at the heart of work in this area.

The study focused on digital resilience among pre-teens - those aged 8 to 12 years old, who are transitioning into early adolescence and seeking more independence at home, school, within society and, increasingly, through online experiences.

The findings, published today in the journal Education and Information Technologies, come as the latest draft of the Online Safety Bill makes its way through the UK Parliament. The Bill is not expected to place a clear requirement on platforms to co-operate on cross-platform risks and respond to cross-platform harms when discharging their safety duties, compromising the collective endeavour being called for in the study.

Current United Kingdom Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) guidance highlights digital resilience at an individual level. The study’s lead author Dr Simon P Hammond said this places emphasis on the child, “marginalising how home, community and societies support children to learn how to navigate and grow from risky online experiences”.

“The need to support children in learning how to recognise, manage, and recover from online risks is an increasingly important process for all,” said Dr Hammond, a lecturer in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at UEA. 

“By showing how digital resilience operates within and across different levels, we can provide more child-centred support to help children to thrive online. To raise digitally resilient citizens, we need to think beyond solely the child or their immediate family and think about how community and society work with these groups.

“There is also the idea here that just as with the offline world, we need to understand that learning by doing, which involves risky play, is a lifelong process. Mistakes will happen and children need support to learn from those.”

Consultant child & adolescent psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham, who co-chaired the UKCIS Digital Resilience Working Group, said: “This important, hopeful research takes further the early thinking on digital resilience and gives a clear direction away from simplistic e-safety strategies, and highlights how individuals, families, and communities can flourish in the digital age.

“There is a clear call to action for us all to be better engaged with young people as they learn to navigate the mercurial online world, whilst not dispensing with our growing demands that technology companies create safer online spaces, more supportive of wellbeing and development.”

Since Summer 2021, England's nine million school pupils have been learning about being safer online via Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. However, many existing resources, which lack a solid evidence-base, tend to take a universal rather than personalised approach to risk.

The study provides a platform to counter this by underpinning the creation of validated psychometric measures that will enable important contextual factors such as a child’s family and community support to be considered, enabling educators to offer tailored as opposed to one-size fits all approaches.

Co-author Dr Gianfranco Polizzi, of the University of Liverpool, said: “Our findings have the potential to help parents/carers and educationalists promote digital resilience through formal and informal educational approaches that interact and show the importance of supporting pre-teens’ digital resilience within and across different areas of their everyday lives.”

Dr Kimberley Bartholomew, from UEA, added: “For policymakers, this study illustrates aspects that might otherwise be taken for granted. For example, that a child is assumed to be more or less digitally resilient as a function of their age, rather than a combination of their age plus their digital experiences and skills.

“This can shape new ways of teaching which promote controlled exposure to risky opportunities, to be used to help children build and show digital resilience as opposed to trying to avoid risky experiences altogether, which is both short-sighted and unrealistic in our increasingly connected worlds.”

The study was carried out as part of the Nurture Network (eNurture), a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded initiative that fosters new collaborations to promote children and young people’s mental health in a digital world.

‘Using a socio-ecological framework to understand how 8–12-year-olds build and show digital resilience: a multi-perspective and multimethod qualitative study’, is published in Education and Information Technologies on September 30.

Latest News

 
A male nurse slumped against a wall.
06 Dec 2022

Care home nurses still need support to recover from Covid trauma, research shows

Those on the front line of the Covid pandemic need mental health support to help them recover from, or manage, the stress and trauma they faced - according to...

Read more >
 
Peter Hemmins with robot
01 Nov 2022

Productivity East hosts Robot Wars

Productivity East is usually home to UEA’s engineering students, but on 5 November it played host to almost 100 robots and their creators in the RobotWars...

Read more >
 
image of the brain
01 Dec 2022

University study to support families after Traumatic Brain Injury 

UEA is one of four universities to receive £140,000 funding to conduct a study to determine whether storytelling can support the wellbeing and adjustment of...

Read more >
 
Hanna Thomas Uose
30 Nov 2022

UEA creative writing student wins national writers prize for unpublished novel

Hanna Thomas Uose, who is studying for an MA in Prose Fiction at the University, has won the Morley Prize for Unpublished Writers of Colour 2022. 

Read more >
Are you searching for something?
 
Hanna Thomas Uose
30 Nov 2022

UEA creative writing student wins national writers prize for unpublished novel

Hanna Thomas Uose, who is studying for an MA in Prose Fiction at the University, has won the Morley Prize for Unpublished Writers of Colour 2022. 

Read more >
 
An overweight woman in a doctor's office.
30 Nov 2022

Overweight women most likely to suffer long Covid

Overweight women are more likely to experience symptoms of long Covid according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Read more >
 
Two panels of the climate change mural artwork
25 Nov 2022

Climate change mural now on display at Norwich City Hall in historic year for Climatic Research Unit

On the 50th anniversary year of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the stark impact of climate change has been brought into focus by a giant mural now on...

Read more >
 
HSJ Awards logo
05 Dec 2022

UEA’s contribution to Clinical Associate in Psychology training shortlisted for national award

UEA, alongside the University of Plymouth and partners, has been shortlisted for two awards at the 2023 Health Service Journal (HSJ) Partnership Awards.

Read more >
 
Chemical molecules
01 Nov 2022

UEA researchers uncover how ancient protein-bound iron cofactors are assembled in bacteria

Mass spectrometric studies of the assembly of an essential and common iron- and sulfur-containing cofactor has revealed a ‘sulfur first’ mechanism.

Read more >
 
01 Nov 2022

Dec 22 issue of UEA Chemistry Magazine is out now

The December 2022 edition of our UEA Chemistry Magazine: yoUr chEm mAg is now available.

Read more >