Ponte et al IAMCR 2011


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Ponte et al IAMCR 2011

  1. 1. IAMCR 2011 – AUDIENCE SECTIONDigital inclusion in the face of social semi-exclusion: adapting the EU Kids OnlinequestionnaireCristina Ponte1, José Alberto Simões2, Ana Jorge3FCSH, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, PortugalAbstractTranslating questionnaires for children (9-16) and parents conceived in English to 19languages while ensuring that the questions had the same meaning in 25 countries was achallenge for the EU Kids Online survey that allowed comparing online experiences ofchildren and young people across Europe and parents’ views on them (seewww.eukidsonline.net ). Based on our dual experience in the EU Kids Online network and inthe project Digital Inclusion and Participation” (UTAustin|Portugal Program, seehttp://digital_inclusion.up.pt ), which is focused on disadvantaged social groups, we adaptedthe Portuguese version of children’s face to face questionnaire to interview deprived children.Therefore, a selected group of questions on access, frequency, activities, skills and mediationswere asked to children and young people (9-16) that access the internet at Digital InclusionCentres, which are part of a public policy program for social inclusion. This paper discussesthe issue of deprived children and the media, presents the challenges faced by the adaptationof questions and characterizes their family composition and internet access.1 Assistant Professor with Habilitation in Media Studies. Department of Communication Sciences2 Assistant Professor. Department of Sociology3 PhD student, Department of Communication Sciences 1
  2. 2. Key Words: deprived children; children and the internet; digital inclusion; EU Kids OnlineDeprived children and their media experienceIn contemporary societies, besides the relative social invisibility of children as a social group,information and research on the most vulnerable groups of children are particularly missing,namely on children living in poverty or in alternative care, from ethnic minorities or migrantchildren, thus being ignored their particular life experiences facing the mainstream referenceof “being a child”. Fewer children but more children in poverty were pointed out by Qvortrup(1994: xii) as an emerging social trend in European countries at the beginning of the 1990sthat continues to be a reality: one in five children in the EU were at risk of poverty before thecurrent economic crisis struck – approximately 20 million children, according to Eurostat(2010).There are many ways of defining poverty, ranging from absolute or relative definitions basedon income to indicators of social inequality and deprivation. As far as children are concerned,a move to indicators of child well-being has been recognized as particularly relevant formeasuring their social inclusion (Bradshaw, 2007: 106). Among those indicators is theirmaterial, educational and subjective well-being, already explored in recent UNICEF reports(UNICEF 2007, 2010). In fact, if children cannot function as "normal" members of societybecause they do not have access to the material goods that others deem necessary, then thisindicator of deprivation is a useful one, points Montgomery (2009: 166). Under thisperspective, for European low-income children cyberspace represents “not a new opportunitybut potentially a new danger, a new form of difference and exclusion”, as Ridge (2007: 174)reports: “as children’s social lives are increasingly developed, explored and negotiated in theworld of virtual time and space, new sites of social exclusion are emerging”, namely through“unsustainable consumption demands of high-tech accessories”.Even if disadvantaged children gain more internet access, they may remain relativelydisadvantaged both in terms of the quality of internet access they enjoy and because one formof this disadvantage is generally correlated with others, e.g. parents’ available time, parental 2
  3. 3. education and expertise, educational values at home, calm places to studying in and so forth(Livingstone, 2009).As noted above, for socially marginalized children and young people, poverty is not only thescarcity of material or educational resources: it is also an internal construction of a self thatmakes certain choices unthinkable, from reading a book from the library in their leisure timesnowadays to considering an ambitious career in their future. As Montgomery (2009: 170)points out, Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus (considering individual, familiar and societaldispositions) and social and cultural capitals are here particularly productive, taking thedebate about poverty away from economics and the lack of material possessions and back toissues of deprivation and inequality, making visible the lack of various forms of cultural andsocial capital. On cultural capital one can distinct: institutional cultural capital (such asacademic qualifications), embodied cultural capital (the ways in which people use language,present themselves, display social competence or confidence and so on) and objectifiedcultural capital (their ownership or use of material goods such as books or paintings). Thesocial capital involves networks and connections and how these networks are sustained.Based on her ethnographic research among children in the US, Ellen Seiter (2005) argues that,far from leveling class differences, the internet has deepened social divisions along the lines ofclass, race and ethnicity, both within and between countries. Middle-class children are notonly likely to have better quality computers and software; they also are likely to have muchmore informed support in using them from parents and other adults, and a greater access tosocial networks which will provide them with a sense of motivation and purpose in using suchtechnology in the first place. By contrast, poorer children simply have less access to culturalgoods and services: “they live not just in different social worlds, but in different media worldsas well” (Buckingham, 2007: 84).These different media worlds might be contrasted in the types of access to two levels of digitaldivide (Hargittai, 2002): a first level of digital divide means having access to digitaltechnologies, considering ownership and use; and a second level is related to the user profiles,assuming that more advanced users will develop a more functional rather than anentertainment-oriented user profile. The differentiation hypothesis considering thatsociological variables continue to be important predictors including for the digital generation 3
  4. 4. (Peter and Valkenburg, 2006; Livingstone and Helsper, 2007) also confirms that idea. Theexploration of how far the digital experience of particularly deprived children goes nowadaysis the aim of the current ongoing research. Preceding others that will focus on the second levelof the digital divide, this paper is focused on the first level, also providing a contextualizationof the participant children and youth.The Portuguese context and the Program EscolhasPlaced in the Southern Europe and facing the Atlantic, living the economic and culturalglobalization from a semi-peripheral situation, a fast expanding consumption and access totechnologies in the last decade, Portugal still experiences an unfinished modernity (Almeida &Costa, 1998), in-between developed and developing countries, sharing a language and culturalties with Brazil, Cap-Verde, Angola and other former colonies, from where come the majorityof migrants.In the last two decades, the Portuguese society has registered large transformations, namelyin its demographic and structural composition and in lifestyles, both having impacts onchildren’s and young people’s experiences. Demographic and structural changes that have animpact on childhood are: a decrease in birth rate among native families, one of the mostaccentuated in Europe; the increase of recomposed families, which create more complexparental relations; the differences in the attainment levels of education among generations(low literate grand-parents; a majority of parents who attained only compulsory school;adolescents that that have already surpassed their parents’ schooling); the income gap amongfamilies, with 25% of children living in poverty (INE, 2010).Being for decades a relatively closed and ethnically homogenous society, Portugal also facesthe consolidation of a broader cultural and ethnical heterogeneity. Besides gipsy familiesspread throughout the country, there is an increase of immigrant families, and their secondgenerations, mostly concentrated in the capital area and in Algarve, and having more childrenthan the Portuguese ones. Therefore, there is now a bigger diversity of children’s social andcultural backgrounds, as well as different paths and trajectories in their families, bothconditions placing relevant questions on social identities and social inclusion andparticipation.As for the lifestyle changes, it could be mentioned the late arrival to consumption patternscompared to other contemporary societies, which have had an increasing expression within 4
  5. 5. the leisure cultures: the changes in the TV panorama (multiplicity of private channelsentertainment-oriented) and in other mass media; an explosion of shopping centres attractingfamily outings; the embellishment of the households with individualized technology, amongstthem the digital technologies oriented to entertainment, communication and information à lacarte (gaming consoles, DVD players, plasma TV, laptops, digital cameras, mobile phones andso on). These postmodern scenarios contrast with low levels of informational literacyamongst adult generations. Among older generations, shared childhood memories of povertyare combined with the willingness of providing their children with all the material comfortthat they themselves had the lack of. This potpourri of pre-modern, modern and postmodernstructures and values is marked by a high social inequality: amongst the 25 countries thatparticipated in the EU Kids Online survey, Portugal occupies the second highest position in thesocial inequality index (ratio of share of income or expenditure of the richest 10% to thepoorest 10% of the population), after Turkey and followed by the UK.In recent years, public policies have tried to change the educational scenarios, investing bothin adults and children, around Programs such as Novas Oportunidades [New Opportunities],targeted at adults with low school attainment, the upgrade of school equipments (e.g.broadband access, digital boards) and stimulus to the industries to produce and sell low costlaptops to students since the early years of schooling (Programs Magalhães and E-Escolas). By2010, more than 800 thousand families had already answered positively to these Programs,considered as references for digital inclusion.Combining social and educational aims, Escolhas is a nationwide program aiming to promotesocial inclusion of children and young people (6-24 years old) from the most vulnerable socio-economic contexts, particularly descendants of immigrants and ethnic minorities. Digitalinclusion is one of its five priority areas of intervention, crosscutting and cumulative with theothers: school education, vocational training, community participation & citizenship, andentrepreneurship. Its 132 centres are mostly placed in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon andOporto, created by local NGOs and working in the inner of vulnerable contexts, these beingsocial housing, old buildings in the city center or slums in the suburbs. Each center isequipped with a minimum package of six PCs, broadband access and a printer. Digitalactivities include guidance, free activities, those aimed at developing skills and school success, 5
  6. 6. and more formal ICT courses. Local teams are composed by 3-4 technicians and include ayoung person living in the community and who acts as mediator.These centres were the scenario for our interviews with deprived children and young people(9-16), adapting the EU Kids Online questionnaire. As said, this paper will focus on adaptationprocess and on the households and conditions of access the internet among these children,comparing results with those from the national sample. Let us take a brief look at some ofthese national results.Portugal in the EU Kids Online surveyIn Portugal, according to the Eurostat values, children accessing the internet were estimatedto be 78% and thus being the universe of the EU Kids Online survey. On the basis of results oneducational level attained by the main provider and his/her occupation among the thousandhouseholds interviewed, 53% households were composed by low SES families and 18% werefrom high SES (European average, respectively, 19 and 34%), a gap that illustrates the socialinequality pointed above. On the internet use at home, about two out of three children weresingle users and only 7% declared not having internet access at home.Only 22 parents out of the thousand interviewed describe their families as belonging to agroup that were discriminated against in the country and only five declared that Portuguesewasn’t the main spoken language at home, suggesting a high level of integration and linguistichomogeneity among these respondents, due to a possible underestimation of neighborhoodsinhabited mostly by deprived, migrant and ethnic minority children in the national sampling.National results follow the European pattern on accessing the internet more at home than atschool, but contrast in the devices children use. Portuguese children lead in having a personallaptop (68%), far from the double of the European average (24%), a probable consequence ofthe above mentioned public policies. Children with personal laptops cross all families,possibly influencing the high presence of the internet in the bedroom (67%; Europeanaverage: 49%), occupying the third place after Denmark and Sweden. Differences among SESare reduced, being the ownership even a little higher among children from low SES families 6
  7. 7. (68-66%). The reverse is that these children are those with lowest access to the internet inthe public areas of the household (73%; high SES 86%) or through personal PCs (28%;children from medium SES: 40%), game consoles (22%; high SES: 37%) or mobile devices(5%; high SES: 10%), and sharing less the computers with others in the household. Influenceof the above mentioned public policies are thus visible, suggesting a clear move from the“almost no technology” to the personal laptop among children from low SES families.The low cost of the laptops were supported by internet service providers, integrating differentpackages for internet access, the most popular being a pen-drive with a limited amount ofinternet traffic. While children of high SES families, where packages of full-access are morecommon, declare less access to the internet at schools or in public spaces free of charge,children from middle and low SES families declare more their use of the internet in thosespaces. In particular, accessing the internet in public libraries was declared by one out of fourchildren, doubling the European average. However, the daily access to the internet was one ofthe lowest among the 25 countries, being also less differentiated by SES (high: 57%; low:52%) than the European average (respectively 64-49%).The dynamic process of adapting the EU Kids Online questionnaireOur initial aim was to compare as far as possible the national results on access, uses, activities,skills and mediations with those from a purposive sample of children and young peopleattending Escolhas centres. Therefore, our first task was selecting 23 questions from the EUKids Online face to face questionnaire, following, as much as possible, the protocols andguidelines for application and interviewing. In this initial phase, we also considered that atleast older children could answer the survey questions by themselves with minimum help. Inorder to compensate their effort, , as a symbolic token of appreciation, at the end all theinterviewees received T-shirts and stickers with advice on safety in the internet, provided byan ISP.The discussion on the initial draft with Escolhas local coordinators and animators quicklyconcluded that even the 14+ yr olds would be unable to answer many questions bythemselves, therefore implying the reduction of sentences to a minimum of information as 7
  8. 8. well as the number of questions. Abstract terms were replaced by more common words: forexample, [parents, teachers, friends] suggested or explained was replaced by taught.Issues such as the family composition - potentially sensitive for most children interviewed -were identified in those local meetings. Since many children did not seem to live in structuredfamilies composed by both parents, the solution was starting the questionnaire by asking thechild: Who do you live with?, and adapting the questions on parental mediation to the adultswhich he/she lives with.The pilot test, conducted with African descendent children (9-14) from one of the mostvulnerable neighborhoods in the Portuguese capital, allowed us to identify other points to bechanged. For instance, the question on the devices for accessing the internet strictly followingthe original questionnaire presupposed that the child had his/her own devices or at least thatthey existed in the household (Table 1):Table 1: Devices used for internet access Yes No No answer Your own PC (desktop computer) Your own laptop or laptop that you mainly use and can take to your own room A PC shared with other members of your family A laptop shared with other members of your family and that you cannot take to your own room A mobile phone A Games console such as a PlayStation A Television set (TV) Other handheld portable devices (e.g. iPod Touch, iPhone or Blackberry)Source: EU Kids Online surveyThis question generated successive negative answers and suggested a sense of materialdeprivation. Therefore, a question on media environments at home, used by Livingstone in theend of the 1990s (Livingstone, 2002), was recuperated (Table 2). Starting with the televisionset it allowed children to express pleasure in recalling and counting how many existed in theirhouseholds (one… two… three… four!). On the other hand, it also made visible the exchanges as 8
  9. 9. far as media mobility is concerned: computers, game console, the internet or mobile phonescould be accessed everywhere.Table 2: Description of the household’s equipment At home, for all In your room Don´t have Television Radio/Sound System Game console Computer Mobile phone Internet Bookshelf with non-school books Source: Escolhas survey (based on Livingstone, 2002)The pilot questionnaires also confirmed that particularly young children were tired with itsextension, the difficulties of understanding questions on frequency of uses and apparentsimilar questions on mediation. Therefore, more cuts on the information on frequencies weredone. At the end, the questionnaire was divided into two versions, one for the younger (9-13)and another for the older (14-16).The version for the 9-13 was designed as a structured interview of 30 questions, some ofthem open-ended questions: From this list of activities, what do you prefer? Why?; What areyou forbidden to do on the internet?, and ending with a sensitive question: (And tell me what isfor you using the internet in a safe way? How do you do it?). The version for the 14-16 was aself-completion questionnaire of 29 questions that included a broader question on culturalinterests and practices as well as three open-ended questions: From this list of activities, whichdo you prefer?; What is your blog about?, for those who declared having a blog, and the finalone: We have asked you some questions about good and bad things that can happen on theinternet. Is there anything you would like to warn people of your own age about? 9
  10. 10. Collecting dataThe interviews were conducted between March and May 2011, in 19 Escolhas centres in theareas of Lisbon and Oporto, where most of them are located, as mentioned before. One or tworesearchers visited each centre for an afternoon, previously arranged with mediators whichacted both as “privileged informants” and gatekeepers, so we could find young people in theirfree time. This moment was also used to observe children in the place, accessing the internetby them own, and to catch the environment atmosphere. We had a total of 279 respondents,distributed as follows:Table 3: Distribution of respondents per area, gender and age groups Indicator Frequency % Area Lisbon 108 39% Oporto 171 61% Gender Female 96 34% Male 183 66% Age < 14 159 57% >= 14 120 43%While age groups are relatively balanced in the sample, gender differences express the realityof Escolhas: there is much more boys than girls attending the centres. The geographic bias isdue to bigger time-constraints for the field work in Lisbon.Families, media environments and the first level of the digital divideTable 4 contrasts results from the EU Kids Online survey and from Escolhas. Although thedifferent nature of the samplings imposes cautiousness it is interesting to look at the patternsof differences and similarities that emerge when they are side by side. 10
  11. 11. Table 4: Results from the EU Kids Online survey and from the Escolhas centres EU Kids Online Portugal Centros Escolhas Household composition Living with one adult 8% 32% Living with two adults 65% 48% Living with three adults 21% 5% Living with 4+ adults 5% 8% Family type Single parent 20% 35% Two parents 79% 54% Other 1% 9% Education among parents Primary education (9 years) or less 47% 92% Internet access at home No internet access 7% 31% At least one parent use the internet 60% 46% Devices for accessing the internet Personal laptop 65% 69% Personal PC 33% 26% Shared laptop 35% 59% Shared PC 35% Game console 25% 13% Mobile devices 7% 5% TV 28% 8% Mobile phone 31% 25% Places of access At home 87% 56% At school 72% 59% In a public library 25% In the Digital Inclusion Centre 96% Frequency of access Everyday or almost everyday 54% 55% Once or twice a week 39% 37% Once or twice a month 4% 6% Less than once or twice a month 3% 2%In terms of family background, the results highlight the weight of not structured householdsaround both parents living together among the interviewees in Escolhas as only 54% livedwith them, contrasting with the 79% among the EU Kids Online national sample. About athird of children and youth from Escolhas live with a single parent, this being mostly themother, and almost one in 10 children is cared for by relatives other than their parents. 11
  12. 12. Grandparents (especially grandmothers), aunts, uncles and brothers and sisters-in law arerelatives that cohabit with the child and take care of him/her. This picture among deprivedchildren confirms the sensitivity of the family issues, and the need to avoid the implicit frameof the two-parents’ dominant model when asking questions on family mediation.Educational capital is one of the key sensitive points in Portugal with implications at all levels,including digital inclusion. Four years of compulsory education reached all children only in1959-1960, and its extension to 9 years was declared in 1986; school failure andabandonment during adolescence have also been high for decades. Therefore, nowadaysadolescents might easily have more school attendance than their parents, with the latterhaving more than their own parents, frequently illiterate (35% of illiterate people in1960). Table 4 shows that nationwide, almost half of households still have a parent (usually,the mother) that didnt reach the Secondary level. Whereas, nowadays young women tend tohave a better performance than young men, among the Escolhas participants the percentage ofparents having the Primary level or less almost reached the total sample size (92%).A sign of this low cultural and educational capital in their households is the relative highabsence of books: on the side of the print culture for leisure purposes, among the Escolhassampling, 38% of the younger respondents (9-13) and 22% of the 14-16 declare not havingnon-school books in their households, which makes evident a poor cultural capital in thosefamilies.Turning to the audiovisual media environment, television is the main device and especiallyyounger children were proud on counting the sets spread through the households from theliving rooms to the kitchen and bedrooms. The radio/stereo set was the second technology,being these values in line with the national trend on the media diet among different agegroups in Portugal (Rebelo, 2008).As far as the digital media is concerned, the first level of digital divide (Hargittai, 2002), theone on ownership and use, becomes visible. All the interviewed children declared themselvesas internet users but the contexts of access diverge: whereas in the national sampling only 7%don’t have internet access at home, the number of those without this access in the EscolhasGroup is more than four times bigger (31%). The percentage of parents that are internet users 12
  13. 13. is also below the national average: 46% of these children and youth have at least one memberof the family that know how to use the internet, in particular the mother (46%) or father(39%), against 60% in the EU Kids Online sampling. This depicts families where children leadthe use of the internet, although using it scarcely.Following the ownership of personal laptops in European terms, with dominance of low SESchildren, as we have seen, this device also leads among the Escolhas children, again above thenational average, whereas all the reminiscent devices (PC, game console, television or mobilephone) are below the national average. Furthermore, if the ownership of modern technology,such is the case of laptops, is apparently assured, the comparison on the places of accessshows that children that attend the Digital Inclusion Centres find them real spaces for theirinternet access: almost all declare accessing the internet in these public places, whiledeclaring a lower use of the internet at school and at home. Finally they don´t diverge somuch from the EU Kids Online answers on the frequency of use, this being one of the lowestvalues in the European landscape.When we look at the distribution of these devices by age, the main difference is due to the factthat children under 14 years tend to refer more often that they neither have most of thetechnological devices at home nor the access to internet. Among those 14 yr old or above,there is a greater expression of ownership of technological devices, particularly in thebedroom environment. Also, there is a growing importance of the computer that appearsafter television and radio as the third device with more relevance in characterizing thebedroom environment.Synthesis and next stepsAt the end of this glance at the family contexts and digital experiences of those attending theDigital Inclusion Centers several important methodological remarks need to be made:Firstly, the importance of considering family compositions and access to the media in thehouseholds that don’t fit the mainstream model of middle-class, high educated parents andwell equipped households, thus the importance of avoiding wording questions that might beinsensitive to such contexts. Secondly, the delicate task of adapting the questionnaire tochildren that experience low literacy skills, reduced vocabulary and low time spam attention 13
  14. 14. to written texts as well as to somewhat complex routing and graphics stressed the advantagesthat came from the conversations with local animators from Digital Inclusion centers and theimportance of pre-testing with children from migrant and low income families not being sofamiliar with the native Portuguese language. Thirdly, the similarities that emerge betweenthis sensitive group of less privileged children and the national trend, expressed in theenthusiasm of the families to adhere to campaigns such as “one laptop per child”, had twoimportant consequences: on one hand, at a basic level, made those families move fromexclusion to ownership; on the other hand, it apparently had no outstanding affect on theamount of use, since this tends to coincide with the relatively low level of frequent internetaccess. Fourthly, the high value of informal public spaces with relatively low level of adultmediation among both groups, such as the public libraries or the Digital Inclusion centres,suggesting the unexplored potential of these places for other kind of uses and opportunities,this being particularly relevant when considering the cultural capital and educational levelamong the low SES families. Finally the differences between these groups as far as otherdigital equipments and household and school environments are concerned, broadening thegap on opportunities for exploring and using the digital media in different activities and forthe digital literacy.This research also helps to question the efficacy of public policies of social and digitalinclusion of the most disadvantaged children and young people, as much effort has been putmerely on access, neglecting the interactions of children with the media within the householdand the kind of mediations they receive in different types of families. The availability of publicaccess does not correspond to an effective use: why is access to the internet in schools lesspopular than in the Escolhas Centres by this group? If they have to account for limited time orlimited bandwidth to manage their access to the internet, what are the consequences fortheirs uses? What are the characteristics of their uses if children are the only users of internetin their homes or if they do not have privacy to use in public spaces such as Escolhas? This willbe the focus of future papers.ReferencesBradshaw, J. (2007). Child benefit packages in 22 countries. Childhood, generational order and the welfare state: exploring childrens social and economic welfare. H. Wintersberger, T. Olk and J. Qvortrup. Odense, COST: 141-160. 14
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