A pan-European study on children’s online experiences: contributions from cognitive testing

Ponte, C., Haddon, Leslie (2010). A pan-European study on children’s online experiences: contributions from cognitive testing . IAMCR conferencw 2010: "Communication and Citizenship". 18-22 July.

Abstract: International projects involving empirical research are always demanding because of the existence of different languages and cultural factors that may affect the understanding of the questions being asked. This paper reports on how these potential problems were explored and addressed in the EU Kids Online II study, involving a survey in 25 countries that was focused on the risks faced by children when using the internet . In particular, the EU Kids Online research on children’s experience of and ability to cope with risks faced online encountered specific and additional challenges. These related to: 1) the large number of countries involved; 2) the fact that the interviewees are children aged from 9-16 (along with one parent), 3) the fact that the main focus is on the sensitive topic of online risks. This raises issues relating to such matters as the attention span of young children, the sensitive nature of the area being studied, especially for younger children, the types of words they understand compared to adults, and cultural differences in the connotations of the language used. In order to address these challenges and prior to the survey, cognitive testing was conducted in all the participating countries. This involved in-depth interviews to evaluate children’s understanding of the questionnaire, their ability to answer each question, any ambiguities or other difficulties that emerged and in general how their felt about the process of answering the questions. This paper reports the issues that arose, how the questionnaire was (re)designed, and hence the overall relevance of these tests and the insights they provide more generally for cross-national surveys and surveys aimed at children.