CHILDREN should not be seen as victims but as agents actively taking part in the online world, says Ellen Helsper, a researcher at the London School of Economics.
Helsper, who has researched the risks and opportunities for European children online, was speaking yesterday at Wits Internet Week, aimed at understanding the role of the internet now and in future.
Helsper has surveyed children and parents in 33 European countries.
She said a more child-centred approach to the internet was needed when dealing with the online safety of children.
“The internet is a world not designed by children. A rights-centred approach helps us think about framing the debate about children and their experiences online in terms of opportunities and risks. When we talk about regulation and children, it is often based on protection coming from seeing children as victims and not as agents who live in this world.
“A rights approach helps us to think about framing the debate about children and their experiences online in terms of opportunities, risks and participation online. It also allows us to think of children as agents with the right and ability to navigate the opportunities and gain resilience against the risks.”
She said it wasn’t possible to create a risk-free internet environment.
Helsper’s survey found children whose parents weren’t passive were less likely to fall for the risks of internet use. Pornography and violence topped what children didn’t want to see.