Child protection study underway

Vicki Nash and I were successful in our bid to the Fell Fund to examine how risk and harm are used in literature addressing children’s use of the Internet. Vera Slavtcheva-Petkova, a recent graduate of Loughborough University, joined us in December and has been making swift progress through the mountain of relevant literature. To date, we have collected nearly 1243 documents, mostly peer-reviewed journal articles, and a solid proportion of reports, working papers, and book excerpts. By incorporating ‘grey literature,’ generated by practitioner groups such as charities and law enforcement with academic articles we aim to develop a more complete understanding of harm as it is experienced by young internet users. Particularly, we want to better understand the frequency and severity of occurrences and use this understanding to evaluate interventions.

To organize ourselves, we are focusing on empirical studies to tease out how and whether harm is operationalized, looking for documented incidents of harm or measures used by practitioners to identify harm. Early on, we realized that interviewing experts in law, law enforcement, psychology, social work, education, and outreach, would lessen our chances of missing key work in the field. In addition, our expert contacts provide context and overviews as we move across different disciplines and perspectives.

Our work has taken us into the areas of cyberbullying, self-harm, and sexual abuse, certainly the darker side of the Internet. We are also exploring current legislation and interventions in several countries to get a sense of successes and challenges in approaching this issue.

At this point, we are 3/4 of the way through our large research corpus and look forward to sharing early observations very soon.

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