Net Aware: our methodology How we created your guide to the social networks your kids use

Net Aware homepageTo help parents know how to keep their children safe online, we have developed Net Aware, a guide primarily aimed at parents, featuring the most popular social networks, apps or games that children use most frequently.

We worked with YouGov to find out what 674 parents thought about the social networks children use. We've also asked 1,696 young people what they thought.

The purpose of the Net Aware guide is to provide parents with the information they need to understand their child's online world and help them keep their children safe online. We're encouraging parents to explore what other parents and children are saying about the sites, apps and games and form their own views about the appropriateness of popular sites for their family.

We hope that Net Aware can help give parents the confidence to have regular and informed conversations about what their children are doing online - just as they would about their day at school. 

The social networks

To choose the featured social networks, apps and games for Net Aware, we looked at:

  • results from the 2016 Net Aware survey, which asked young people to tell us about their favourite sites and any new sites they'd started using
  • contacts we received through Childline and Net Aware to see which sites, apps and games were being referenced most frequently
  • how these compared to the most popular apps on the Google Play and iTunes Stores.

The reviewers

Parents

We worked with YouGov to consult a representative group of 674 parents and guardians with children under 18. We asked them to review the most popular sites, apps and games children are using. Each parent was asked to review at least 1 app, and spend a minimum of 10 minutes exploring certain features of the app before completing the survey. Varying numbers of parents reviewed each site.

We were unable to get parents' feedback for 2 sites, ooVoo and MovieStarPlanet. In these cases we have used parent responses from Net Aware 2016 and highlighted this on the relevant pages.

Respondents to this survey were either parents or guardians but we refer to them as parents throughout the Net Aware site.

Children and young people

In total, we consulted 1,696 young people in schools across the UK and through Childline engagement platforms, such as Childline's Facebook community.

Young people were asked to complete a survey that included general questions about their online behaviour and knowledge around online safety, as well as detailed reviews about specific apps. Young people were only asked to review apps that they'd already used. Varying numbers of young people reviewed each site.

Following completion of the survey, the NSPCC gave young people some top tips around online safety and signposting to Childline for further support.

The questionnaire

We used national and international best practice in keeping children safe online to help us design the questionnaire that the parents completed through YouGov. We asked them to provide qualitative and quantitative information, based on their experience on the sites about:

  • signing up to the app, site or game
  • reporting and blocking features
  • privacy settings
  • safety and support
  • how appropriate the content is for children and young people.

Ease of signing up, ability to report and block inappropriate material, and the ability to modify privacy settings are all key elements of internationally recognised standards for internet safety.

What parents "need to know"

The data for each social network was analysed individually. For the "What parents need to know" section of the guide, we looked at what children were telling us about the site in terms of its risks, as well as the things they like most about it. We also looked at 4 sections of the parents' questionnaire (signing up, reporting,  privacy settings and safety and support).

We gave each question a numerical score from 0 to 5. The higher the score, the better the site or service was at providing and making easily accessible its internet safety features. We then added up the totals for each of the 4 categories. Positive, neutral and negative thresholds were defined based on the number of questions asked and the minimum and maximum numerical scores possible:

  • a score of 75% or above was rated as a positive
  • a score of 25%-74% was rated as neutral
  • a score of less than 25% was rated as negative.

Quotes from parents, children and young people

Parents

The YouGov parent panel was asked for advice they would give other parents. We combined the responses provided for each network, and identified the most common things parents said. The quotes chosen to feature on the site are the points that came up most regularly.

Children and young people

We asked children and young people to rate how risky each social network is on a 5-point scale. If a child told us a site was ‘a bit risky’ or ‘very risky’ they then had an option to explain why they thought this.

We also asked them what they liked and disliked about the sites, apps and games. The comments were subsequently analysed, and quotes relating to the top risks and main reasons why children liked the platform were used in Net Aware.

Choosing the quotes

We've provided a balanced view of each site, selecting some positive and some negative quotes for use on Net Aware. This enables us to demonstrate the main things young people like about the sites, as well as the key risks parents should be aware of. Some sites didn't have sufficient, or any, appropriate quotes to use. We've highlighted on Net Aware where this is the case.

Age ratings

Parents

We asked the YouGov parent panel "What do you think the minimum age should be?" We took the average score from the panel’s responses for each social network.

Children and young people

We asked children and young people how old they think someone should be before using each of the apps, sites and games. We then took the average score of the responses for each social network.

Inappropriate or unsuitable content

Parents' reviews

We asked members of the YouGov parent panel to browse the social network instead of actively taking part. As part of the review, we wanted to know whether they'd seen any content they thought would be inappropriate for a child or young person to see. If they had, we asked the panel to tell us which category of inappropriate content they'd seen.

The categories were:

  • sexual
  • violence and hatred
  • bullying
  • suicide and self harm
  • other, which includes adult and illegal content.

The panel members were asked to register on the social network using their own details (when asked). Some sites, apps and games use software that targets content based on the age of the individual on registration. So it's possible some of the content the panel saw might not have been seen by a child or young person.

However, we know from research, including Net Aware, that a large number of children and young people have created social networking profiles before they are the specified age (usually 13) to do so.

Children's reviews

We asked children to think about whether they'd seen any inappropriate content on the specific platforms that they reviewed and to identify which category of inappropriate content they'd seen. The categories were the same as those used in the parents' reviews, listed above. 

Analysis

We combined the responses from the parents’ and young peoples’ reviews and categorised each response into 'low risk', 'medium risk' or 'high risk':

  • if over 50% of respondents had seen content that was inappropriate, the site was rated as high risk
  • if between 20% and 49% of respondents had seen content that was inappropriate, the site was rated as medium risk
  • if less than 20% of respondents had seen content that was inappropriate, the site was rated as low risk.

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