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Conference Paper: Mental Models of the Internet and Its Online Risks: Children and Their Parent(s)

The paper „Mental Models of the Internet and Its Online Risks: Children and Their Parent(s)” has been accepted for the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction 2022. The conference will take place June 26th to July 1st, 2022.

Title

Mental Models of the Internet and Its Online Risks: Children and Their Parent(s)

Authors

Alexandra Mai (SBA Research), Leonard Guelmino (TU Wien), Katharina Pfeffer (SBA Research), Edgar Weippl (SBA Research, University of Vienna), Katharina Krombholz (CISPA Helmholtz Center)

Abstract

Today, children have access to the Internet from an early age and are therefore considered digital natives. This paper investigates how children (aged five to eight) and their parents perceive and deal with the Internet and the privacy and security risks of being online. Therefore, we extended prior studies of Internet mental models of children. We used a two-fold study design by including drawing tasks in addition to a verbal interview. The drawings allowed us to uncover the tacit knowledge underlying children’s and parents’ mental models. So far, research focused mainly on the threat models of “being online”, while our study has a more holistic view, investigating general perceptions of the Internet in-depth. In contrast to prior studies, which were mainly conducted outside of Europe with highly-educated participants, we recruited participants in Central Europe with a diverse educational background. We found that children’s mental models start to take shape beyond physically tangible components between the age of seven to eight years. Hence, we argue that it is important to educate children about the Internet as well as security and privacy issues before that age. For younger children, we suggest using secure and privacy-preserving applications, as they are not yet able to grasp the bigger picture.