Microsoft study: Teens are better than adults at finding help with online issues

It’s World Kindness Day – and we’re calling on teens across the globe to assist adults with online issues. That’s because, according to our latest research conducted in 25 countries, teens are considerably better than adults at tracking down useful resources to help resolve digital difficulties.

Both demographic groups say risk is a significant problem when it comes to life online. Both also admit that finding help can be hard. Some 74% of teens and 73% of adults say online risks are a “big problem,” while 65% of teens say they know where to find useful resources, compared to just 39% of adults. Both percentages are up from last year when 60% of teens and 37% of adults said they knew where to turn for assistance. In addition, 41% of teenagers and 44% of grown-ups said tracking down resources to assist with online risks can be “somewhat to extremely” difficult.

The findings are from Microsoft’s latest research into aspects of digital civility – encouraging safer, healthier and more respectful online interactions among all people. The study, “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2019,” polled teens aged 13-17 and adults aged 18-74 about their exposure to 21[1] different online risks. This latest research builds on similar studies we’ve undertaken each year for the last three years. Previous projects polled the same demographic groups in 14, 22 and 23 countries, respectively. A total of 12,520 individuals participated in this year’s study, and we’ve surveyed more than 44,000 people on these topics since 2016. Full results of this latest poll will be released in conjunction with international Safer Internet Day 2020 on February 11.

Confidence in facing online risks

While two-thirds of teens say they know where to find help with online risks, their self-assuredness in managing online risk exposure is slightly lower than that of adults. Just under half of the teens surveyed (48%) said they were confident in handling online risks versus just over half of the adults (52%). To help build those confidence levels, check out our resources guide, which offers primary and secondary sources for all 21 risks covered in our survey. Additional information about a wide  range of online activities and potential risks and harm can be found on the resources page of our website.

A lack of confidence in knowing where to find help can contribute to concerns about online risks in general. Additionally, as survey results have shown for the past few years, consequences and pain from online risk exposure are real. According to our latest findings, 71% of teens and 65% of adults are “somewhat to extremely” worried about encountering online risks, while even higher percentages of both groups have faced consequences from digital risk exposure: three quarters of teens (75%) and 77% of adults. Consequences range from declining to participate in social media and heightened stress levels, to losing trust in others online or offline, losing sleep and even contemplating suicide. This year, 14% of respondents said they had thoughts of suicide following an online issue, double the percentage from two years ago.

Chart showing online safety

Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge

We’re making this preliminary research available on World Kindness Day to again call attention to Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge – four basic tenets for life online to encourage kinder, more empathetic and more respectful interactions. We’d never want to thwart debate, discussion or the free flow of ideas; it’s just important that those interactions take place free of name-calling and abuse. Specifically, we’re encouraging people to:

  • Live the “Golden Rule” and treat others as you would like to be treated by leading with empathy, compassion and kindness, and affording everyone respect and dignity both online and off.
  • Respect differences by honoring diverse opinions and perspectives and, when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully by avoiding name-calling and abuse.
  • Pause before replying to comments or posts you disagree with and refrain from posting or sending anything that could hurt someone, damage a reputation or threaten someone’s safety.
  • Stand up for yourself and others if it’s safe and prudent to do so; report illegal and abusive content and behavior, and preserve evidence.

As we approach the close of 2019 and prepare for Safer Internet Day 2020, we’ll be ushering in not only a new year, but a new decade. We’ll kick off 2020 with a series of predictions from teens and adults about various aspects of online life over the next ten years. By embracing the Digital Civility Challenge and other common-sense habits and practices, we can help make the 2020s the safest and most respectful decade yet.

To learn more about digital civility and how you can help advance these practical ideals for online interaction, visit www.microsoft.com/digitalcivility. For more on digital safety generally, visit our website, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

[1] The 21 risks span four broad categories: behavioral, sexual, reputational and personal/intrusive.

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