NMHH research: Hungarian children start to use internet younger and younger, but third of parents see no need to enhance digital literacy

Published: 10 November 2021

Almost twice as many 7-8-year-old children had mobile phones last year than in 2017, according to a representative survey by the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH). They are also quick to encounter harmful content online, but the result of the survey is encouraging and shows that parents' active interest in their children's online activity measurably reduces the online dangers for young people. Following the research, the media authority has revamped its Gyerekaneten.hu informational site for parents, and launched a campaign to promote the site.

Last year (again after 2017), on behalf of the NMHH, Psyma public opinion research company conducted a research based on a questionnaire and personal interviews about children’s media use patterns. The representative sample consisted of two thousand children aged 7 to 16 and their parents. The research shows that children go online and gain experience on social media sooner and sooner. In three years, the proportion of 7-8-year-old children with a phone has almost doubled, from 14% to 24%. Based on the survey, the majority of Hungarian ten-year-olds have a mobile phone, primarily a smartphone with a monthly fee and a mobile internet subscription.

The number of 10-year-old children on social media has more than tripled in 3 years, from 3% to 10%.

The research also found positive trends: although children start to use the internet earlier, they are more cautious and aware of their data than before. In 2017, 66% of children with a social media profile shared a photo of themselves, but this figure fell to 58% in 2020. Fewer and fewer of them make their email address, school name or phone number public.

Threats, risks and parenting strategies identified by the research

Research shows that the proportion of 11 to 16-year-olds who were contacted by strangers doubled in 3 years, from 9% to 18%. One in ten children follows back a stranger who has followed them, a quarter of 13-14-year-olds and nearly a third of 15-16-year-olds keep in touch with “friends” they have never met in person. Half of the children contacted by strangers face online harms, and a quarter of them face a specific offence.

Around a third of Hungarian parents choose a passive strategy in their children's digital life, i.e. they do not ban, restrict, monitor or discuss their children's online experiences. Yet research shows that children of parents with active strategies make much more conscious decisions online than those with passive behaviour.

The result of the research is clear and encouraging and shows that any parental activity or interest in children's media presence measurably reduces the dangers for children. The full Psyma research and an executive summary highlighting the key findings are also available on the Authority’s website.

Gyerekaneten.hu updated

Gyerekaneten.hu is an advisory and informational website for parents relating to children's online activities, operated by the NMHH. Revamped for autumn 2021, the new structure of the site focuses on expert articles explaining different topics, and, beyond the articles and quizzes, it also invites you to explore more in-depth knowledge. The editors have updated and expanded the content of the site, and the new Checklists provide parents with short, bullet-pointed advice on how to understand and manage some of the current online phenomena. The advisory lists are written every month by experts who teach at the NMHH’s Magic Valley (Bűvösvölgy) media literacy education centres. Articles from external experts on the sensitive and important issues of digital parenting will also be published monthly. The first article highlighted addresses the problem of grooming, raising parents’ awareness of the activities of malicious strangers in the digital space and how to prevent them.

In November, the media authority has also launched a campaign to promote Gyerekaneten.hu, focusing on the issue of grooming. The campaign targets parents through city-light posters in public spaces across the country, advertisements on Budapest trams, and online and social media ads. The key idea behind the ads is that parents assume that they have intimate relationships with their children that is unique and provides protection. But children can also be reached online by malicious strangers, who can gain their trust (grooming) and this can pose serious dangers. Action can and should be taken to reduce the number of dangerous incidents in order to ensure the safety of children. Gyerekaneten.hu website can help you with this.