Easier to be themselves online, offline: Study

By Anne Collier

In a fresh insight from the EU Kids Online pan-European research project, almost half (49%) of 11-to-16-year-olds in Europe say they find it easier to be themselves online than in person. Thirty-seven percent told the researchers this is “a bit true” for them and 12% “very true,” according to the authors (click for PDF by “New report” on their home page). “The young people who said it was very true that they found it easier to be themselves online were also more likely to have difficulties with real-life friendships, so the Internet probably provides a means of escape or compensation,” authors Sonia Livingstone and Kjartan Olafsson at the London School of Economics write. “Our survey shows most young people who use the internet have good relationships with friends ‘offline’ and take few risks when using the internet. But it seems that children who have difficulties with friendships at school or elsewhere tend to put themselves at greater risk when online.” This appears to track with a key takeaway of the comprehensive review of the youth-online-risk research by the US’s Internet Safety Technical Task Force: that not all young people are equally at risk online and those most so are the most at risk offline. In other findings in this latest report from EU Kids Online, 45% of the youth surveyed “talk about different things on the internet than when speaking to people face-to-face” and 32% “talk about private things online that they do not discuss face-to-face.”

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