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At Netsafe we provide online safety support, expertise and education to all New Zealanders as part of our role under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015. We have a responsibility to help people of all ages and children are a key focus area.

Our experience tells us that to better understand children’s harmful online experiences like cyberbullying, and risky online behaviours like sexting, we need to explore the way kids access and interact through digital technologies.

Netsafe’s prior research has told us a lot about the online experiences of teenagers. As growing numbers of younger kids connect online, we all — policy makers, researchers, educators, service providers and parents — need reliable evidence about the way younger children engage online.

Joining Global Kids Online

In early 2018, Netsafe joined Global Kids Online, an international network of academics and experts on children’s rights in the digital age. The network aims to provide valuable, reliable cross-national research to inform policy and provide practical solutions to protect children’s rights in the context of the impact of digital technologies.

‘Ngā taiohi matihiko o Aotearoa — New Zealand Kids Online’ looks for the first time into the online experiences of New Zealand children aged 9 to 17.

Our research approach

We asked a nationally representative sample of New Zealand kids about their internet access, opportunities and practices, digital ecology, and skills.

Kiwi kids and digital inclusion

Most Kiwi kids, nearly 8 in 10, can access the internet regularly. However, the findings also reveal that over 20 percent of kids don’t have frequent internet access. This suggests that some opportunities, such as using the internet for learning, might be missed for these children. The research brought to light differences in children’s internet access and online safety skills between ethnic groups. Asian children were more likely to report frequent access to the internet compared to Pākehā and Māori children — with Pacific children reporting the lowest rates of internet access.

Pacific children were also less confident in their skills to protect their privacy online and, along with Māori children, were less confident in their ability to determine whether what they find on the internet is true or not.

Are our kids digitally confident?

While most New Zealand kids are confident in their digital skills, younger children aged 9–11 are not as digitally confident as most adults might think. This challenges the idea that children growing up now are instinctively ‘digital natives’ and suggests younger children may need more active help to protect their safety online.

What Kiwi kids do online

Kids are making the most of online opportunities for entertainment, learning and socialising but are less engaged in activities like discussing social problems online, writing a blog or connecting with people from a different background online.

There is a big jump in the use of the internet to connect with others over social media between 12 and 14 years. Socialising online brings a new set of opportunities and challenges and the finding suggests the pre-teen age bracket may be an important intervention period to help children develop online safety skills.

There are gender differences in how kids engage online. The research found girls were more likely to use instant messaging and photo-sharing apps while boys were more likely to be using the internet for online gaming.

Up next from Netsafe’s research team

Understanding kids’ internet access, skills and opportunities allows us to better support kids to have safe online experiences and benefit from the affordances of technology.

Our next Global Kids Online project will delve into New Zealand children’s experiences of online risks and harm.

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