USING MOBILE APPS TO PROMOTE CHILDREN AND YOUTH ONLINE SAFETY - A LITERATURE REVIEW
This paper presents a literature review on the use of mobile apps to promote children and youth online safety. It reviews both theoretical perspectives and findings of empirical research. Existing research focuses particularly on parental control apps and game-based interventions to raise safer internet awareness. From a broader perspective on children and youth online safety, two main needs were identified:
i) when involved in situations causing discomfort, doubt or distress, youngsters find it difficult to ask for guidance and help from adults, fearing reprimands and punishment;
ii) from a child and youth centred perspective, that is, considering their own motivations, agendas and peer cultures, advice and support needs, in regard to these issues, remain fairly unknown. From this point of view, the very concept of online or digital safety may be considered unclear, at least from a child and youth centred perspective.
Existing research further shows that youngsters frequently confide and rely on peers, rather than parents or teachers. Thus, seeking qualified aid may happen only when the situation is already extreme. More worryingly, those at higher risk of harm, namely children from low-income households and younger children, face increased difficulties. In the case of Portugal, it should be noted that European research situates us in a cluster of countries where restrictive measures are more frequently imposed on children’s use of technologies. Hence, we need to find ways to reach out to children and youth at an early stage of a potential harmful online experience, particularly those at higher risk of harm. Furthermore, we need to produce and disseminate children and youth centred guidance and means of assistance, supported by research evidence.
This review is part of the Apps4eSafety project (apps4esafety.org), which seeks to explore the potential of using mobile apps to fill in these gaps.
This research has two main objectives:
i) conduct a survey of needs and motivations concerning online safety, from a children and youth centred perspective;
ii) evaluate the viability of using smartphone apps to address these demands.
An app will be conceived, developed and tested in close collaboration with groups of children and teens. A preliminary distribution and pilot study will be conducted at the four municipalities participating in the study. Other applications will be reviewed through documental analysis and user reviews.