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Research aimed to explore various factors influencing teens’ online engagements, exposure to risks and parental mediation in regulating their internet use. Qualitative research method was applied and eight (8) FGDs were conducted with 52 teens in district Lahore (Pakistan).The research provides an evidence base that teens’ digital environment and excessive internet use make them more vulnerable to online risks. Research found that parental internet mediation is effective to maximize online opportunities and minimize online risks. These findings suggested to develop parental guidelines and launch awareness campaigns to educate parents, teens, families and communities about online risks and protection behaviors.
Minimizing Online Risks: Qualitative
Study of Teenagers Online Exposure and
Parental Internet Mediation
Sarosh Iqbal
Rubeena Zakar
Research aimedtoexplore various factors influencing teens online
engagements, exposure to risks andparental mediation in
regulating their internet use. Qualitative research method was
applied and eight (8) FGDs were conducted with 52 teensin
district Lahore (Pakistan).The research provides an evidence base
that teens digital environment and excessive internet use make
them more vulnerable to online risks. Research found that parental
internet mediation is effective to maximize online opportunities
and minimize online risks. These findings suggested to develop
parental guidelines and launch awareness campaigns to educate
parents, teens, families and communities about online risks and
protection behaviors.
Since the advent of internet, e-phenomenon of technology has
increasingly become an inseparable part of our daily lives. Today, we all live in
the digital era, in a home of modern internet connected devices, such as
computers, laptops, video games and smart televisions (TV). Particularly, the
handheld devices like iPods, iPads/tablets and iPhones/smartphones provide
exposure to various platforms of communication, edutainment and socialization
(Ólafsson, Livingstone, & Haddon, 2013).
Internet use has increased rapidly over time. Globally, there are4.39 billion
internet users and 3.9 billion active mobile users (Hootsuite, 2019).The number of
internet users has been multiplied since 2011, due to substantial increase in
smartphones (ITU, 2017). Statistics informed that a significantly higher proportion
of 71% young people aged 15-24 years use internet daily (ITU, 2017).
Asia Pacific has shown impressive digital growth trends during last decade.
Pakistan ranks in top 10 Asian countries (Statista, 2019), with 44.6 million internet
users. Country has35 million active social media users and 109 million mobile
users. Amongst all, 58% users go onlineon daily and 31% on weeklybasis
(HootSuite, 2019).
Teenagers, between 13-19 years are the avid users of internet, hence
recognized as cyber-teens (Lee, Conroy, &Hii, 2003). Teens sense of being
always connected is characterized as a reference point for identity construction
or socialization.Internet offers multiple opportunities for teens to experiment
Pakistan Vision Vol. 20 No. 2
with their identities online, which encourage them to enhance, modify or conceal
certain features of their self,and pretend to be someone else(Katz & Rice, 2002).
Therefore, they prefer virtual environment over real life, which make them risk-
teens. Broadly, internet is beneficial for teens learning andsocialization,
however, it increases their probability for online risks, such as identity theft,
privacy invasion, personal information disclosure, cyberbullying and exposure to
sexual, violent or hate material (Livingstone, 2009).
Parental Internet Mediation
Parental Mediation (PM) is an emerging concept, recognizing that parents
take an active role in managing and regulating children/teens online experiences
(Clark, 2011). The concept of PM was primarily used in media research to
understand the influence of media content, like TV and video games on teens
behaviors (Rothfuss-Buerkel&Buerkel, 2001). It argued that young viewers may
adopt certain attitudes presented in media, unless parents intervene or guide
(Bybee, Robinson, &Turow, 1982). Thus, media researchers identified three PM
strategies i.e. restrictive, instructive or activeand co-using (Valkenburg, Krcmar,
&Roos, 1998; Nikken &Jansz, 2006). Later, the researchers began with these
already identified PM strategies to understand the specific attributes of parental
internet mediation and revealed following five dimensions of parental internet
mediation (Livingstone, Mascheroni, Dreier, Chaudron, &Lagae, 2015):
i) Active mediation (encouraging, sharing and discussing teens online use);
ii) Restrictive mediation (setting rules for time and use of internet);
iii) Monitoring (checking available records afterwards);
iv) Technical mediation (using software or parental control to filter, restrict or
monitor online activities); and
v) Active internet safety mediation (guiding for safe internet practices, before,
during or after use).
Problem Statement
Parental mediation is the subject of contemporary societies including
Pakistan, where teens internet use, both interm of time and activities is rapidly
evolving.Teens are considered more vulnerable to online risks,due to their strong
association with peers,limited capacity for self-regulation andinsufficient e-
maturity(OKeeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). Therefore, societies rely heavily on
parents to prepare teens to protect themselves, placing less burden on government,
regulators or educators (Clark, 2011).
Previousresearches mainly focused on PM in use of TV and games, whilst
only a handful of studies researched parental internet mediation. Further, a vast
body of PM literature represents western societies (Livingstone, &Helsper, 2008),
highlighting the paucity for eastern societies like Pakistan. Literature review
showed that most of the Pakistani studies examined role of internet addiction and
Minimizing Online Risks: Qualitative Study of Teenagers’ Online Exposure and Parental ...
its effect on teens/adolescents academic achievements (Akhter, 2013; Iqbal,
Noor, &Mian, 2014; Saleem, Owaisi, &Tufail, 2015), and physical and mental
health (Niaz, 2008). Further, only few studies assessed cyber-bullying, as a
prevalent online risk in country (Microsoft Corporation, 2012; Telenor Group
Survey, 2016). Thus, there is a dearth of literature regarding parental mediation in
children/teens use of media or internet in local settings.This research intends to
bridge the gap and explore various factors influencing teens online exposure,
vulnerability to online risks and parental mediation in regulating their use of
internet, particularly in minimizing risksin district Lahore (Pakistan).Based on
research objective, following research questions are proposed:
1. Which factors are contributing in teens online exposure and vulnerability
to online risks?
2. How do teens perceive parental internet mediationsand its role in
regulating their use of internet, particularly in minimizing online risks?
A qualitative research was carried out in district Lahore, (Pakistan),
whereFocus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted to explore the
Considering research objective, teenagers, both boys and girls were
included. Here a teen is referred to a person between 13-19 years, studying and
using internet on atleast one of the digital devices at home.
Sampling Strategy
Purposive sampling, themost widelyused strategy,was applied for qualitative
data collection. A total of eight (8) FGDs were conducted with teens boys and girls
separately. In all, the sample of 52 teens was covered, including 26 boys and 26
Tool Development
After thorough consultation of literature, a qualitative FGD guide was
developed to explore teens perspectives on research. Guide covered broader areas,
including access and use of internet; first internet experience; online time spent;
online activities; digital skills; excessive use of internet; awareness of online risks
and various dimensions of parental internet mediation.
Data Collection Process
Six educational institutions, including 3 higher schools and 3
colleges/universities were selected to hold FGDs.Only those teens participated,
who showed willingness and gave informed consent.During FGDs, teens were
encouraged to express their views openly. Each FGD took approx. 40-45
minutes.Alongwithwritten notes, FGDs were also audio-recorded.
Data Analysis
Pakistan Vision Vol. 20 No. 2
Data was transcribed and thematic approach was used for analysis. Each
transcript was carefullyexamined to identify emergent themes and sub-themes
(Figure 1). During analysis, names of participants/institutionsand their identities
were anonymous.
Thematic findings of FGDs are presented below:
Access and use of internet. Findings revealed that all teens have access to
internet in terms of means,type of devices in use and personally owned, and
Means to access internet.Most of the teens confirmed that they accessed
internet viawifi and mobile data package (3G/4G).
Devices to access internet and their ownership.Teens expressed that they used
internet on multiple devices. Older teens confirmed the ownership of
smartphones, desktops/personal computers (PCs) and laptops, while younger
ownedtablets/IPads or used shared devices (PCs or laptops) for internet.
Location ofinternet use. Results found that teens used internet everywhere,
wherein younger teens used it at homes in their spare times, nevertheless, older
teens used it at multiple locations, including homes, hostels,
school/college/university or while roaming around.
First internet experience. Teens shared their first internet experiences, in
terms of their ages, type of device and age at setting-up social media account.
Age at first use. Mostly teen girls started internet use at later ages, between
14-16 years, as compared to boys, who started itat early ages of9-12 years. Few
boys confirmed of internet use since their childhood.As 14 year old boystated, I
was 3-4 years old, when I used internet for the first time.
Types of devices. Teenshad their first internet experience on PCs/desktopsor
laptops, while some girls usedtheir mothers smartphones and some boys used
their own smartphones for internet. A 15 years boy narrated, I got my own cell
phone at the age of 9 yearsfor internet.
Age at setting-up social media account. A large number of participants
informed that they had set-up their social media accounts before reaching the age
of 13 years. A girl aged 13 years stated, I have set-up my account on Facebook,
while I was 9 years old.
Online screen time.Analysis found that younger teens spent less time online,
between 2-6 hours, while older teensspent more than 12 to 20 hours daily online.
A 19th year old girl stated, We remain online almost round the clock (24/7),
unless we sleep.
Types of online activities.All participants responded that they used internet
for studies, socialization, gaming and entertainment. A boy aged 18 years
mentioned, We use internet for studies, chattingwith friends on social
media,watching films/musicand gaming (X-box).
Minimizing Online Risks: Qualitative Study of Teenagers’ Online Exposure and Parental ...
Internet addiction or excessive use. Analysis revealed that younger teens were
less addictive to internet as compared to older ones, who felt bothered in absence
of internet, as stated by a younger boy, I become anxious, when dont have
internet. Sometimes, I skip my meals and classes while being online.Teens also
highlighted that their excessive internet use is related to studies and social media.
Digital skills. FGDs analysis showed that a large number of teens had more
know how about internet and digital skills than their parents. As narrated by 18
year old girl, Yes, I am more skilled, even I taught my mother how to use
internet and smartphone. Contrary, few teens negated this notion and considered
their parentsmore knowledgeable and skilled.
Awareness of online risks and coping strategies. Most of the participants were
found unable to list all potential online risks and their severity.Analysis revealed
that younger teens had less awareness of online risks in contrast to older
teens.Regarding teens awareness about coping mechanismagainst online risks,
participants indicated to approach parents, teachers, elder siblings or friends for
immediate support.
Increasing parental concerns with teens online exposure. All participants
unanimously affirmed that their online exposure raised parental concerns and
worries, especially of mothers, who took more interest in their online
activities.Nonetheless, some teens mentioned the high concerns of fathers. Upon
probing, results highlighted that educated parents, who have awareness of online
risk paid more attention to teen online safety. A 17 years old boy stated in this
regard, My mother is a teacher, so sheasks many questions, while I am using
internet, like what are you doing, why online, to whom I am talking to etc.
Parental internet mediation strategies. Analysis highlighted that majority of
teens were found unaware about the term of internet mediation. Then researcher
explained them the concept of internet mediation and its various dimensions, e.g.,
active mediation, restrictive mediation, monitoring, technical mediation and
active internet safety. Findings revealed that more than half of teens particularly
the older ones refused that their parents never applied any such internet mediation
strategy. However, upon probing, teens expressed that their parents use mixed
strategies, or in combination to keep teens safe and protected from online risks.
Mostly reported about active mediation, restrictive mediationand monitoring
altogether. The same has been shared by 15 years old teen, My mother just sits
with me and guides me, while I use internet. But, she has also set the rule of using
internet for not more than 2 hours daily. A girl aged 14 yearalso reported of
using the combination of active mediation and monitoring. She said. My mother
and I share our online activities with each other. She has my password as well, so
sometimes she just logs in and checks all.
Participants were further asked to narrate any experience of online risks they
faced, and how their parents mediated to minimize risks. A 19 year old girl shared
her personal experience,
Someone hacked my Facebook accountand changed email
address.This really worried meas account has my personal pictures
Pakistan Vision Vol. 20 No. 2
and details.Ishared it with my mother, who always warned me
about online threats. Sheimmediately asked me to report against
hacking to Facebook administration. I did the same and recovered
my account.
The research was conducted to gain a deep insight of various factors
influencing teens online engagement, exposure to online risks and parental
mediation strategiesin district Lahore (Pakistan). Research found that teensin
Lahore are excessive users of internet, thus are exposed to multiple online risks.
Research emphasized that teens exposure to online risksis a strong sociological
concern of contemporary societies.
Research highlighted that it is essential to understand the dynamics of teens
digital environment to comprehend their online activities. Findings showed that
teens internet use has increased due to its instant access on multiple devicesand
location via wifi and 3G/4G mobile data package. These findings are consistent to
the study conducted in Utah(Atwood, 2016). Study also pointed out that teens
ownership of smartphones and online screen time is doubled over times, which
stimulate their excessive use of internet.Most significantly, teens social media
use on smartphones also compelled them to frequently check their devices to stay
up-to-date.These findings dovetail with previous studies (Lenhart, 2015;Anderson
& Jiang, 2018).
Research highlighted that some teens had their first internet experiencein
childhood andalso set-up their social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram
before reaching the age of 13 years. It indicates theviolationof terms of social
networking sites, as nearly all sites allow users aged 13 years and above, under
Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act(Harper, 2018).
Analysis also showed that engagement of teens in multiple online activities,
such as socialization and edutainment enhanced their digital skills. Nonetheless,
teens low awareness of online threats and their severity make them more
vulnerable to risks. Literature indicated that not every teen has the digital skills to
manage online risks (Livingstone et al.2011). These findings are in consistent with
other studies (Lee &Chae, 2007;Livingstone, &Helsper, 2008; Livingstone et al.
An active involvement of parents is required to regular teens excessive
online use and minimizes risks (Smahel et al, 2012). There is a general belief that
easiest solution to these risks is to prevent teens for use of internet, however
experts argued that teens non-exposure could do more harm as the benefits of
internet cannot be avoided (Aftab, 2000).Here the role of parental mediation
emerges, strategizing to supervise and guide teens use of internet. In view of
findings, majority of teens were found unaware of internet mediations. However,
upon probing, participants responded that their parents applied mix mediation
strategies. These findings are similar to previous research work, highlighting that
Minimizing Online Risks: Qualitative Study of Teenagers’ Online Exposure and Parental ...
parents preferred to apply combination of mediation strategies, considering the
needs and competence of teens, as well as their own values and priorities (Barkin
et al. 2006; Livingstone et al. 2015). The same has been argued by several
researchers, where most effective parental mediation approach was found a mix
of strategies to guide and interpret the online content, and reduce online risks
(Bybee et al. 1982; Valkenburg et al. 1998; Nathanson, 2002; Livingstone et al.
This research presented the main findings of qualitative analysis related to
factors contributing towards teens online environment, exposure to online risks
and parental internet mediation in district Lahore (Pakistan). This research is the
first of its kind, addressing an utmost important issue within local context, i.e.
teens online engagement and parental internet mediation. The research lays a
foundation for future research in the area of parental mediation. This research
provides an evidence base that parental internet mediation is effective in
minimizing the online risks and maximizing online opportunities among teens,
through instilling critical thinking and self-efficacy to handle any adverse situation.
Research suggested that parents have prime responsibility for teens learning and
socialization, hence they should continuously guide, advice and support teens in
their use of internet. These findings are particularly significant, highlighting
knowledge gap regarding internet mediation, therefore it suggestedto develop
guidelines to ensure e-safety for both parents and teens. This research also
recommends to initiate awareness raising campaignsto educate parents, teens,
familiesand communities about online risks, privacy concerns, online protection
behaviors and remedial strategies to promote positive and healthy outcomes
amongst teens.
Pakistan Vision Vol. 20 No. 2
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Pakistan Vision Vol. 20 No. 2
Figure 1. Word Cloud of Thematic Analysis
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
In this experiment, we investigated whether adult mediation during a cultural children's program stimulates children's knowledge of and attitudes towards opera. One hundred twenty four children were randomly assigned to one of two viewing conditions. In the mediation condition a coviewing adult provided children with additional comments and showed a positive attitude towards opera. In the non‐mediation condition a coviewing adult did not give comments and showed a neutral attitude towards the program watched. Children in the mediation condition recalled significantly more opera information. In both the mediation and the non‐mediation condition children's attitude towards opera was stimulated by the cultural children's program.
This article describes the theory of parental mediation, which has evolved to consider how parents utilize interpersonal communication to mitigate the negative effects that they believe communication media have on their children. I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this theory as employed in the sociopsychologically rooted media effects literature as well as sociocultural ethnographic research on family media uses. To account for the emotional work that digital media have introduced into contemporary family life, I review interpersonal communication scholarship based on sociologist A. R. Hochschild's (1977, 1989) work on emotions, and suggest L. Vygotsky's (1978) social development theory as a means of rethinking the role of children's agency in the interactions between parents and children that new media affords. The article concludes by suggesting that in addition to the strategies of active, restrictive, and co-viewing as parental mediation strategies, future research needs to consider the emergent strategy of participatory learning that involves parents and children interacting together with and through digital media.
Using social media Web sites is among the most common activity of today's children and adolescents. Any Web site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site, including social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life, and the Sims; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs. Such sites offer today's youth a portal for entertainment and communication and have grown exponentially in recent years. For this reason, it is important that parents become aware of the nature of social media sites, given that not all of them are healthy environments for children and adolescents. Pediatricians are in a unique position to help families understand these sites and to encourage healthy use and urge parents to monitor for potential problems with cyberbullying, "Facebook depression," sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content.
Parent's guide to protecting children in cyberspace
  • P Aftab
Aftab, P. (2000). Parent's guide to protecting children in cyberspace.NY: McGraw-Hill.
Relationship between internet addiction and academic performance among university undergraduates
  • N Akhter
Akhter, N. (2013). Relationship between internet addiction and academic performance among university undergraduates. Educational Research&Reviews,8(19), 1793-96.
Teens, social media & technology
  • M Anderson
  • J Jiang
Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology. Pew Research center.
The relationship between adolescents' use of internet-enabled mobile devices and engaging in problematic digital behaviors
  • R Atwood
Atwood, R. (2016). The relationship between adolescents' use of internet-enabled mobile devices and engaging in problematic digital behaviors.Utah State University.