InetRisks was funded under the Research Promotion Foundation's Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Innovation - Desmi 2008. The project was coordinated by the Cyprus Neuroscience and Technology Institute, Cyprus and was carried out in collaboration with partners from Cyprus and Greece.
The very difference between real Internet-related risks and Internet-related risks as perceived by adults (parents) could constitute a new type of risk in itself. There is a similar difference between the means to deal with these risks and the means to deal with these risks as perceived by adults (parents). The conception adults (parents) have on what (their) children do when they “play” (spend time) on the Internet is largely based on ignorance; certainly experiential ignorance in that they have not “played” (spent time) on such activities themselves and often ‘literate ignorance’ in that they have not studied the matter. Media and church hype add insult to injury. Furthermore, there is a difference between the real attitude of adults (parents) towards their children (in general, and with respect to their children’s activities on the Internet) and their self-perceived attitude. There is a further difference between their real attitudes and the results of their behavior. The project studied the attitude of such adults towards the fact that their children immerse themselves into video games (Second Life in particular). Specifically, the project team studied the change in attitudes of the adults regarding the activities of their children and the risks related before and after they had an opportunity to “play” along with their children for several months. The project addressed Internet safety issues with the aim to achieve an in-depth understanding regarding safety breaches and protective measures and actions, primarily within the family environment. For this purpose, a limited section of the Online Virtual Environment, Second Life, was customized to host study teams who were playing on the Internet and were “exposed” to real risks in a controlled way. Project participants developed skills in recognizing safety pitfalls and dealing with them as well as appreciated Internet Risks in their true dimension.
- Customization of a place in the virtual environment Second Life
- Identification and selection of participants
- Formation of 10 study teams (composed from 1 parent and 1 child each)
- Initiation of first phase of activities.
- Feedback, questions and exchange of experiences among participants.
- Second phase of activities.
- Collection of data from participants.
- Qualitative Analysis of data.
- Presentation of the results of the project.
Customization of Second Life for InetRisks and Activities
InetRisks utilized an area in Second Life to create activities for the study-teams,that would simulate internet dangers in a controlled environment. Some of the activities the study-teams had to participate were:
- Participate in a beauty-contest organized by the project team.
- Initiate conversation with another avatar on SL
- Participate in an event organized by SL
- It seems that adults have broaden their knowledge on the Internet opportunities in regards to personal pleasures (songs, newspapers, communication), social networks and virtual environments.
- Adults became more knowledgeable about the Internet Risks and the ways to cope with difficult situations.
- Adults have discovered that children have knowledge and skills they did not expect.
- Adults have pointed out that children can teach them new things and skills. They have realized that they can effectively co-operate with children under fair terms.
Parents and children have spent time together playing and learning.
- Parents were very pleased for having the opportunity to spend time with their children as they have learned new things and skills,
- Parents have spent quality time with their children and they have learned new things about them.
- Parents have discovered the “world” of their and they had fun.
Perceptions and Attitudes
Parental perceptions and attitudes in regards to risks in general were classified as:
- Conservative, referring to those who seem not to be willing to allow their children go online on their own under any circumstances;
- Those who seem to be willing to allow their children to go online on their own under any circumstances;
- Those that understand the risks of the internet and account for it when allowing their children to go online;
- And those who ignore the risks of the Internet.
Potential Change of Perceptions and Attitudes
The project team studied the change in the adults attitudes in regards to the activities of the children and the risks related before and after they had the mutual-activities experience.
- The perceptions and attitudes of the adults differentiate according to the type of the risk and the notion and maturity of the children in regards to coping with risks.
- Adults seem to be informed about the most important internet risks.
- In some cases, adults report the same risks in real life as in the internet life.
- Even though some adults are familiar with terms like the “social networks” and the “environments of virtual reality”, they are not using them because they did not find the time to do so.
Some adults are consciously not using some of the internet tools (Facebook, electronic shopping).
- In some cases, adults have stated that real life risks are more important than the Internet Risks.
These activities constitute an essential experiential training for the Internet Risks in where the children and adults can move gradually from the stage of ignorance and prohibition to the stage of knowledge and "positive use". This gradual transition depends not only on knowledge and skills but also on the perceptions and attitudes developed through the mutual activities in order to make children chose freely and intelligently. The cooperative experience on the Internet activities has provided the adults with an experiential conception of the possibilities and the risks. Every adult participant acknowledges the positive outcomes from using the internet as well as the possibilities that it offers to them and their children. At the same time, adults recognize the possibility of risks occurring if children are not trained well. Every adult cited that the best training received by children is through guidance and dialogue in order to make the children develop a critical thinking when using the internet. Some of them support the “exposure” in controlled situations. Several adults are still basing children education as in the means of the Internet Risks and Prohibition. However, the mutual internet activities were seen as the basis of guidance, the controlled “exposure” at risks and as a way to develop “critical thinking”. In this way, changes are possible in the perceptions and attitudes of the parents. Consequently, time devotion has benefits in such experiential activities. Adults and children can learn from each other in a constructive and pleasant manner and they can enjoy the time they spend together.