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Balancing opportunities and risks in teenagers' use of the internet: the role of online skills and internet self-efficacy

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Many hopes exist regarding the opportunities that the internet can offer to young people as well as fears about the risks it may bring. Informed by research on media literacy, this article examines the role of selected measures of internet literacy in relation to teenagers’ online experiences. Data from a national survey of teenagers in the UK (N = 789) are analyzed to examine: first, the demographic factors that influence skills in using the internet; and, second (the main focus of the study), to ask whether these skills make a difference to online opportunities and online risks. Consistent with research on the digital divide, path analysis showed the direct influence of age and socioeconomic status on young people’s access, the direct influence of age and access on their use of online opportunities, and the direct influence of gender on online risks. The importance of online skills was evident insofar as online access, use and skills were found to mediate relations between demographic variables and young people’s experience of online opportunities and risks. Further, an unexpected positive relationship between online opportunities and risks was found, with implications for policy interventions aimed at reducing the risks of internet use.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/35373/

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