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#17: Enhancing online safety amongst younger children by using cross-age teaching intervention (CATZ). 


Technology is constantly finding new ways to advance, and the internet is undeniably one of the most important technological advances we as humans have ever created. The benefits of the internet are limitless and it allows humans to connect with the world instantaneously. In today's society, it is acceptable and even normalized for young children to use the internet and that isn't really considered a problem because parents feel like they are able to regulate online content that children are exposed to.

The internet allows people to interact with one another from all over the world, and with the rising popularity of social media outlets online communication appears to be increasing rapidly, well the same isn't to say for online safety.

 A recent pilot study done in 2016, showed that there is a surging increase in the number of young children using the internet. The issue with this is the fact that younger children do not have the proper knowledge to keep themselves safe while online. 


Cross-age teaching intervention proved beneficial and effective for younger children and CATZ tutors.

Positive increase in knowledge for both tutors and tutees
Cross-age teaching or CATZ is an intervention process that allows older children to take charge of small groups of their younger peers and try to educate them on the risk and dangers that come with online interactivity.

The study examined (N=291) UK primary school students and the mean age of those who were the CATZ tutors was 11.5 years (69 girls and 77 boys), while the mean age of the tutees was 9.5 years (71 girls and 74 boys). Students and tutees were given classes to attend at random. 

The tutors focused mainly on 7 different types of online risks, which included things such as; meeting strangers, sharing personal information (deliberately and accidentally), cyberbullying, sharing personal photographs, computer viruses, and understanding that people may not be who they say they are. In a 2007 study, researchers studied whether sharing of personal information leads to online victimization.

The results from the 2-3 weeks assessment was a success, researchers noticed an increase in knowledge of safety and risks between both tutors and tutees. Reason being that children are willing to acknowledge and apply online safety rules but "adult-implemented initiative's" have proven to be ineffective due to the concept of them being "boring." This study doesn't mean that parents are unable to establish online safety policies for children, "it just means that they need to take another approach to dealing with the matter."

Parent mediation and regulation of online content

Parents go to great extents to ensure that their child can use the internet and stay safe at the same time. According to the Pew Research Center, based on a 2014 and 2016 survey only 39% of parents use parental controls for blocking, filtering, or monitoring their child's online activities.

And with the growing popularity of social media parents are finding it harder to regulate the potential threats that young children could be exposed to. The increasing popularity of social media makes it more difficult for parents to restrict online information from their children.

Pew Research states that 71% of teens use more than one social media and "aided by the convenience provided by mobile phones, especially smartphones, 92% of teens go online daily."A massive percentage of online users by younger age groups means that the only way to truly regulate content now is to completely isolate younger children from technology.



Larger online presence allows exposure to unwanted or problematic experiences.

Example of a data graphic collected for 3 different years
There is no way to completely regulate the content that is put out on the internet, and sometimes children mistakenly come across sites that 

The fact is that due to the lack of knowledge younger children possess about online usage they are more vulnerable to the unwanted exposure that can and more than likely have long-term effects on a child.

As of 2010 research shows that 11% of children online are targets of harassment and 9% are targets of unwanted sexual solicitation. The lack of proper knowledge is the cause of children making mistakes that could've been completely avoided if the proper steps were taken so a child knows what to avoid on the internet.

Males are more likely to be exposed to online risks than females

Although in all studies conducted gender never appeared to be a significant factor of online safety between males and females there was one study that discovered a few significant difference between males and females, one being that males are more likely to be exposed to online risks than females. Which means that they a more likely to encounter all 7 different risks that the CATZ program.

Research shows that the percentage of parental mediation is higher for females than for males. Females are also less likely to visit unknown chat rooms and also female friends tend to be unsupportive of risky online behavior.



For more information about youth online safety read any of the following sources below:

  1. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/416/
  2. http://yas.sagepub.com/content/38/2/135.short
  3. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/399/
  4. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/800.short


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