Net Children Go Mobile

What is the aim of the project?

Net Children Go Mobile is an international research project which is partially financed by the Safer Internet Program of the European Commission. From the EU Kids Online research appears that online chances and risks are strongly connected: the more a child uses the internet, the bigger the number of chances and risks they encounter (Livingstone, 2011). The fast rise of mobile devices has thoroughly altered the context of internet use. The privatizing of access and use, and the omnipresence of the internet in the life of children have consequences for the existing notions on freedom, privacy, social interactions and for the guidance by parents, teachers and other educators. The possibility of internet access though mobile devices could also have consequences for the online chances and risks children have to deal with. The principal objective of the Net Children Go Mobile project is to gain insight in the online experience of children through mobile media, and how this differentiates from their ‘classic’ internet experiences. We also look at (mobile) internet use in different contexts and situations, both at home and school.

How was the data collected?

As a sister project of EU Kids Online, the Net Children Go Mobile project starts from the same conceptual framework and methodology[1]. The starting point is a critical, contextual and comparative approach that centralizes the child (Livingstone & Haddon, 2009; Livingstone e.a., 2011). The participants were questioned in spring 2014 through means of a face-to-face survey at their homes. For the more ‘sensitive’ questions (for example on exposure to sexual images), there was a written questionnaire provided. In Belgium, 511 children between 9 and 16 years old participated with the investigation, 236 Dutch speaking and 275 French speaking. This Belgian data collection came to be with the support of the Flemish government, especially the department of Culture, Youth, Sports and Media. Hereon, a quantitative part was combined, where besides children and adolescents, also parents, teachers and leadership of the youth movement participated in. With a total of 38 children, nine focus groups were organized. For the adults, there were 34 people, who were questioned in a mix of focus groups and individual interviews.

Fact sheet - BELGIUM

Population (on January 1, 2013)

11 099 554 inhabitants

854 622 children aged 9-16 years old[1].


Education is mandatory from 6 to 18 years, and is articulated in four stages[2]:

·       pre-school: age 2,5 to 5 (not mandatory);

·       primary education: 6 grades, age 6 to 12;

·       secondary education: 6 grades, age 12 to 18. Divided in three broad study fields: general education, technical education, vocational education.

·       tertiary education: bachelor degree (3 years), and master degree (2 years).


80% of Belgian households have internet access with 84% daily users among those who have accessed the internet in the last three months.

The internet is more diffused among young people and households with children: 93% of households with children have access to the internet, compared to 75% of the households without children. In the age group of 9 to 19 years old, 93% of the children have a laptop at home and 76% a desktop.

91% of the population (age 16-74) has a mobile phone. Among youngsters aged 9-19 this rises to 98%. Tablets are becoming more and more popular in Belgium, with 30% of the households having a tablet in 2013. In families with children aged 9 to 19, this increases to 69%.

Social networking sites are extremely popular among young people. Among adolescents (age 12-19), Facebook remains the most popular SNS, with 90% having accessed Facebook in the last month. Among the younger SNS users (9-12 years), Ketnet is the most popular with 43% of the children having logged on in the last month. This shows that the strategy of Ketnet as public broadcaster has become a success among i’s' target group of young internet users. In the adult population (age 16-74), 53% has ever posted something on a social networking site, and 44% has used voip services like Skype.

The use of ICTs in schools

In Belgium, education policy is a competence at regional level, with the Dutch-speaking community and French-speaking community each developing their own educational policies and curricula. In the Dutch-speaking community, ICTs are more integrated into school curricula and the quality of facilities is better. In both communities, primary schools generally are more poorly equipped compared to secondary schools.

Dutch-speaking community[4]

In primary education, there are 17 devices (desktops, laptops, tablets or e-readers) for every 100 pupils. In secondary education, this increases to 60 devices. Digital blackboards are more integrated in primary education, with 73% of the elementary schools and 78% of secondary schools having at least one digital blackboard at school. The large majority of the schools have a wireless internet connection: 86% in primary education and 92% of the secondary schools. About 3 in 4 schools have wireless internet.

French-speaking community[5]

Although most schools are connected to the internet (90% primary and 97% secondary), only 11% of secondary schools has wireless internet access. In primary education, there are about 4 computers with internet connection for every 100 pupils. In secondary schools, this is about 8 computers for every 100 students.

Political initiatives and national ICT strategy

Dutch-speaking community[6]

In 2012, the ministry of  Media developed a policy note on media literacy. The aims are creating a solid and strategic framework for media literacy, starting with a collaborations between the ministries of Media and Education. Towards youngsters, the opportunities of ‘serious games’ will be explored. This should contribute to creating a safe and responsible media environment. Awareness raising initiatives will mainly focus on privacy protection and online bullying. On the level of the general population, this goal is to create an e-inclusive society and decrease digital inequalities by supporting collaborations between stakeholders in educational and socio-cultural areas (musea, libraries, cultural centres, etc).

French-speaking community[7]

The Yapaka programme coordinates actions and initiatives related to safer internet use. It has launched several awareness raising campaigns in 2012 and 2013, focusing on youngsters. Yapaka’s goal is to banish anxiety approaches in awareness raising campaigns, promote the internet as a tool for child development and ensure non-dramatized prevention. Efforts are done to engage NGOs and industry players to these awareness actions and initiatives (Microsoft, Belgacom, …).

Political initiatives regarding ICT use in schools

Dutch-speaking community[8]

The policy note on Education 2012-2013 includes several initiatives and actions. Flanders will participate in the international project ‘eSafety label’, which provides schools with self-evaluation tools to develop awareness about ICT safety and stimulate ICT policy initiatives at school level. Furthermore, the government will collect and disseminate best practices related to new media use at school, and develop a common approach towards new trends such as ‘tablet schools’, ‘serious gaming’ and ‘bring your own device’. Alongside, the IWT project ‘a school for the future’ will be launched (, which investigates possibilities for developing a user-friendly and flexible school environment. Additionally, the Flemish Education Council published an advice on the integration of ICT in mandatory school curricula.

French-speaking community

The government supports the Higher Council for Media Education, which is a platform for coordination between the government departments and other stakeholders for media education. The aim is to increase the availability of computer equipment in schools, with the School Digital Project (2013), as a follow up on the Cyberschool project in 1999 and the Cyberclasse project in 2005. The website  will be a portal website with tools, advice and recommendations on Safer Internet for children.

Political initiatives about promoting digital opportunities to children

The Flemish government believes in the opportunities of serious games, and will launch a call for the development of serious games via the ‘Gamefonds’ [gaming fund].

Examples of strategic or informative or cultural uses of mobile media in relation to children

Dutch-speaking community

Some projects focus on new or mobile media in general (‘school of the future’, ‘digitale week’), but recently more initiatives are taken towards the promotion of tablet use in educational contexts (‘tablio’) end educative use of smartphones at school (‘slimme media shake’). Also serious games (e.g. PING – poverty is not a game) are being implemented in school contexts.

French-speaking community

The Yapaka programme[9] has supported several awareness raising intiatives (‘qui a peur du grand mechant web’, ‘3-6-9-12 maîtrisons les écrans’). However, not with a specific focus on mobile media.

Key organizations working in the area of children and media

On the federal level, Child Focus is the key organization as the Belgian Safer Internet Centre, providing advice and educational materials in both Dutch and French. In the Dutch-speaking community, Gezinsbond aims at informing and supporting parents. The public broadcaster VRT develops positive online content for younger children (8-12 years old). The organization Mediaraven targets youth workers and adolescents, promoting creative internet use. In the French-speaking community, Media-Animation, Action Ciné-Médias Jeunes and Centre Audiovisuel Liège support the development and dissemination of awareness raising campaigns.

Examples of foci area for public debates on (children and) mobile media

In both communities, parents are considered important stakeholders and a combination of active mediation and monitoring is generally suggested. Issues of privacy and cyberbullying remain high on policy makers agendas.

In the Dutch-speaking community, these topics are recently more contextualised in a mobile internet environment. New techniques such as serious games are explored.

Collaboration between stakeholders in the area

In the Dutch-speaking community, the Flemish government supports the Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy (Kenniscentrum Mediawijs[10]) aims at bringing together all Flemish stakeholders in the field of media literacy and digital skills, to gather and enclose all information and knowledge about online risks & opportunities, and online safety.

The Belgian Safer Internet Centre Child Focus[11] has developed successful collaborations with industry partners (Belgacom, Microsoft) to educate children and parents towards positive internet use. Initiatives mainly took place in the French-speaking community.







[7] Benchmarking of Safer Internet Policies in Member states and policy indicators. IDATE, August 2013.