The Brave Phone and The Child Protection Center of Zagreb conducted research at the national level on the experience and behaviours of children on the Internet and on Facebook social network in general and on the relation of that experience to children’s personal and psychological characteristics, habits of safe use of the Internet and other characteristics.

Research was conducted on the representative sample of 1489 children aged 11 to 18, from the fifth grade of primary school till the second grade of secondary school and from both urban and rural environment of Croatia.

Here are some of the results.

Facebook social networking habits

Obtained data:

  • 93% of the children have a Facebook profile, while 7% do not
  • 68% of the children opened their Facebook profile before they were 13 years old
  • 18% have more than one profile
  • more than a half of the children (53%) have more than 300 contacts (“friends”) on Facebook
  • almost a half of the children (47%) visit Facebook during classes
  • 84% of the children have internet access on their mobile phone
  • 64% of the children have internet access at school
  • majority of the children (67%) attend extracurricular activity, mostly one or two
  • children who spend three or more hours a day on Facebook have lower academic achievement than children who spend less than half an hour a day, they have poorer self-image and show more emotional and behaviour difficulties
  • children who are more intensely involved in cyber-bullying via Facebook have lower academic achievement than their peers

Frequency of internet use:

  • 69% of the children visit Facebook several times a day, 15% once a day
  • 47% of the children spend 1-2 hours a day on Facebook, 34% less than half an hour, while 19% spend 3 or more hours on Facebook

Information children commonly post on Facebook:

  • private photos – 43%
  • links to interesting articles, video-clips and similar – 52%
  • significant events or changes in their life – 14%
  • intimate and confidential information about themselves – 1%

Private information children share via Facebook:

Free time and the Internet:

Asked how they would prefer to spend their free time, only 5% of the children answered that they would like to spend it on the Internet, while others would rather engage in some free activity or socialise with friends. In reality, 26% of the children spend their free time most often on the Internet.

As many as 83% of the children who most often spend their free time on the Internet would rather spend it socialising with their friends (62%) or engaged in some sport or other activities (21%).

Reasons for Facebook use:

  • the majority (88%, or 9 out of 10) use the Internet to be in contact with their friends and be informed about events related to their friends
  • to be in contact with friends they personally know (75%)
  • to see events and activities of their friends (13%)
  • to meet new people (7%)
  • because they find it more comfortable to communicate that way (4%)
  • to feel accepted by their friends (1%)

What children do on Facebook

Visibility of the profile:

  • 63% of the children state that their profile is visible only to those they personally know, 17% to their friends’ friends, 8% to everybody, while 12% are not sure to whom their profile is visible.

Risk behaviours on Facebook:

  • 34% of the children accept friend requests from unknown persons
  • 27% state that they might try to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend via Facebook, and every 10th child has done that
  • 18% of the children think that they would meet in person somebody they do not know but have met on Facebook, while 3% would surely do it. Significantly, 8% have already done that, going to the meeting alone.

Profile safety:

Although the majority of the children take care of their Facebook profile safety, 10% of the children do not know how to achieve that, and every 6th child (15%) state that they do not care about that.

Rules on Facebook use:

  • 78% of the children state that there are no rules about Facebook use in their family, 17% say that there are such rules and that they follow them, while 5% say that there are such rules, but they do not always follow them
  • the number of rules decreases with the increase of children’s age, while the children aged 15 to 16 are at highest risk for peer bullying

Children who do not have a Facebook profile:

Peer-bullying on Facebook

The use of electronic communication for peer bullying, also called cyberbullying, involves various behaviours of individuals or groups who repeatedly communicate in a hostile or aggressive ways via the Internet or mobile phones, with the intention of harming or embarrassing another person.

This form of abuse on Facebook takes various forms which are not equally spread.

  • every fifth child (21%) says that s/he has received hurtful messages or comments via Facebook several times or often, 46% of children experienced that at least once, while 9% of them admit that they committed it several times
  • out of the total number of children who were repeatedly exposed to cyberbullying, 53% experienced at least once that messages continued even after they had met and asked the sender to stop with it
  • 16% of children received at least one unwanted message with sexual content (message, picture, video…) via Facebook, while 4% of children admit that they committed it
  • every fifth child says that others posted things via Facebook which harmed their image, while 9% admit that they committed it
  • every fourth child (26%) admit that others spread lies about him/her via Facebook, while 7% admit that they committed it
  • every sixth child (16%) experienced that others posted information via Facebook, so s/he was ridiculed, while 10% admit that they committed it
  • every sixth child (16%) says that someone logged in their Facebook profile and posted unpleasant information about them in their name, while 8% admit that they committed it
  • every tenth child (11%) experienced that someone deliberately blocked them or kicked them out of some Facebook group aiming at isolating them, while 13% of children committed it
  • 3% of children admit that they opened a Facebook group aiming at ridiculing or hurting other children, while 4% were the victims of such behaviour
  • every sixth child (15%) received threats via Facebook, while 7% of children admit they committed it

Excessive use of the Internet

  • 30% of children and youth think that they should spend less time on the Internet
  • 23% of children and youth continue to use the Interned despite an intention to use it less
  • 1 in 10 children and youth feel they lack sleep due to the amount of time they spend on the Internet
  • 1 in 10 feel restless and irritable when they cannot use the Internet
  • every sixth child seeks to do homework as fast as possible in order to use the Internet
  • every sixth child admits neglecting his/her everyday chores because they prefer to use the Internet
  • 5% of children and youth rather spend time on the Internet than socialize with friends
  • 12% of children admit that they use the Internet to avoid the feeling of sadness or discomfort
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