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Child Mind Institute Releases Internet Usage Report “Helping Teens Make Their Online Spaces Safer” Funded by Google’s Trust and Safety Team

November 9, 2023

Online Use and Reporting Survey Finds that One-Third of Children Report ‘Negative’ Online Experiences in Past Year and 70% of Those Children Faced Repeated Internet Incidents

New York, NY – The surge in internet usage among young individuals has opened doors to both greater risks and opportunities in their online experiences. In order to better understand how minors are experiencing harm online, the Child Mind Institute, the leading independent nonprofit in children’s mental health, released a groundbreaking report on ways to help teens make their online spaces safer, with the support of Google’s Trust and Safety team and the Google Kids and Family team. The report includes results from the Online Use and Reporting Survey (OURS) as well as qualitative interviews to explore how minors experience online abuse, their willingness to report that abuse, and what individual-level factors act as barriers or motivation factors.

The research team found that the majority of minors who experience harmful online content or behavior choose not to seek help. Alternatively, minors who decide to take action are more likely to utilize online safety tools rather than turning to off-line support networks, such as a friend or caregiver. These findings underscore the critical role of online platforms and the potential mitigate experiences of abuse online.

The survey data includes telling statistics:

  • Respondents spend 4 hours online daily outside of school, mostly messaging and watching video.
  • More than one-quarter said that in the past year they had a negative online experience, defined as “a situation online that made you uncomfortable or scared.”
  • When asked what they did following the uncomfortable online situation, only 20% said they reported the issue online.
  • 64% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I am confident in managing these situations myself.”

Additional key findings of the research include:

  • Nearly a third of kids surveyed have had a “negative” online experience in the past year, with about 70% of those having them multiple times a year.
  • Kids with mental health conditions are more likely to have negative experiences, and be less likely to seek help.
  • There are four types of barriers to reporting: embarrassment, uncertainty in process, policy, and potential outcomes.
  • Kids with more positive parenting and higher social aptitude are less likely to have negative experiences, and more likely to seek help when they happen.
  • Overwhelming majority of kids wanted more information on how to protect themselves.

Taken together, the quantitative and qualitative arms of this research suggest that youth in general, and youth with mental health symptoms in particular, are far more likely to experience negative events online than they are to report them.

The report provides recommendations for policy makers, parents and the tech industry as a whole. When speaking to minors about their negative experiences online, responses to cyberbullying and online abuse must focus on increasing understanding, destigmatizing reporting to overcome embarrassment, and putting special emphasis on solutions for kids most at risk. Otherwise, young people will not engage with programmatic responses to the problem.

“Most kids and teens feel confused about what to do when they have negative experiences online, and they are unsure about the best course of action. Clarifying the reporting process, policy, and outcomes is absolutely essential to increasing willingness to engage with the safety systems that online platforms have in place.” says Aki Nikolaidis, PhD, research scientist in the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute.

The report was made possible by the Google Trust and Safety Team and the Google Kids and Family Team. These teams focus on creating safe and high-quality product experiences at Google, including establishing a better understanding of how adolescents interact with products and building protections for them.

Child Mind Institute designed the survey and managed data collection, data analysis, and the interpretation of results. Google’s research teams offered feedback and approved the final quantitative survey.

The full report can be found here.

About the Child Mind Institute
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The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders by giving them the help they need. We’ve become the leading independent nonprofit in children’s mental health by providing gold-standard evidence-based care, delivering educational resources to millions of families each year, training educators in underserved communities, and developing tomorrow’s breakthrough treatments. Learn more at

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