Research on the benefits and risks of children's internet use has strengthened EU internet safety guidelines, changed service providers' privacy practices and highlighted children's digital rights worldwide.
- Findings from the UK Kids Go Online project were used in the 2008 Byron Review of Internet Safety and the Home Secretary's report Taskforce for Child Protection on the Internet – leading to the establishment of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety.
- Professor Sonia Livingstone advised the Council on its development of the UK's first Child Online Safety Strategy, published in 2011. This prompted inclusion of e-safety in the national computing curriculum and Ofsted's school inspection regime, and to the development of guidance for self-regulation within the online industry.
- UK Kids Go Online and EU Kids Online (a multinational research network) also informed the internet service providers' first UK Parental Controls Code of Practice (2011), which was endorsed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
- The findings on the benefits of online access for children led to the Department for Education introducing the Home Access Programme (2007-2011), which provided safe computer access at reduced cost to the country's poorest children.
- Evidence from EU Kids Online was used in formulating the 2009 'Safer Social Networking Principles' for the EU. In 2011, the Coalition of Industry Chief Executive Officers from global digital, media and technology companies used the research findings to improve age verification, privacy settings and support services. In addition, the European Commission used Livingstone's research to establish the first European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children.
- Professor Livingstone is now advising the Council of Europe on its new digital rights strategy for children in 47 countries.
- Professor Livingstone is leading the research project Global Kids Online, which is now being funded by UNICEF to inform the promotion of children's digital rights worldwide.
"The research output from Professor Livingstone is continually referenced by myself and colleagues when assessing the safety policies and processes we operate at Facebook. We place significant weight on this research in our decision-making as we find it authoritative, relevant and accessible to the non-academic." (Richard Allen, Vice President Public Policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Facebook)
About the research
The project UK Children Go Online (UKCGO), led by Professor Sonia Livingstone at the London School of Economics and Political Science, looked at how 9-19 year-olds access and use the internet. It was the first large-scale study on the potential risks and benefits of online use for children.
"There has been an extraordinarily rapid increase in home access to the internet in the UK, across Europe and increasingly around the world as children in high, middle and now low-income countries have dramatically increased internet access, often via mobile phones," explains Professor Livingstone. "This has transformed their access to information and learning tools and to global forms of communication and participation. It has also introduced new threats to personal safety where children may be particularly at risk."
The study found that having access to the internet provides educational benefits to children, particularly those in disadvantaged families. These benefits have to be weighed up against the potential risks including identity thieves, pornographers, predators and bullies.
UKCGO was used as a template for the European Commission-funded EU Kids Online project (2006-2014) which surveyed 25,000 9-16 year-olds across 25 countries. The project developed a classification of online risk, and also identified factors that harm or protect children.
In 2015, an invitation from UNICEF to extend the research model further resulted in the institution of Global Kids Online. With the EU Kids Online already replicated in Brazil, Russia and Australia, Professor Livingstone is now guiding conduct of the survey in the Philippines, South Africa, Argentina and Chile, with new countries requesting to participate monthly.