Portuguese children are less at risk but abuse the Net

A European study on online risks for children and young people reveals that the Portuguese are less exposed to threats such as the bullying, pornography, sexual messages or contact with strangers. At the same time, Portugal is one of the countries where more children and young people declare that they have felt “enough times” that they made excessive use of the Internet.

The data are from EU Kids Online II, an analysis based on surveys carried out during the spring and summer of this year, to 23,000 European children between 9 and 16 years old, and to one of their parents, in 25 European countries. Only 7 percent of young Portuguese said they had ever felt uncomfortable or disturbed when surfing the Internet. The European average is 12 percent.

Italy (6%) and Germany (8%) are other countries that classify those where children feel less exposed to risks that may also be approached by sexual messages or face-to-face meetings with contacts made over the Internet – a practice that was accepted, globally, by 1 in 12 of the young people surveyed.

Denmark (26%), Estonia (25%), Romania and Sweden (both with 21%) present themselves as the countries where young people are most at risk online, in a Europe where 29 percent of respondents communicate with strangers online, ranking the practice as either “dangerous” or “fun”.

This was identified as one of the most reported risks by children, along with access to potentially harmful content generated by users.

Viewing or receiving sexual images or messages are the most common risks, but few children identify them as harmful, the study found. More rare are offline meetings with knowledge on the Internet and cases of bullying.

In Portugal, the risks seem to be more situated at the level of excessive use of the network, with 49 percent of respondents admitting to having had this perception “quite often” – well above the European average, which stands at 30 percent.

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With regard to the use of social networks, another of the factors often associated with the theme of online security, 60 percent of Portuguese internet users claim to have a profile in this type of services and in 25 percent of cases without any access restrictions.