Online love and sexuality in times of COVID-19

On the occasion of Safer Internet Day (SID) in the Netherlands, the Dutch Safer Internet Centre (SIC) published a survey on online well-being in the COVID-19 period, with a special focus on online love and sexuality. 

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The results were somewhat surprising for the Centre. Since the Dutch Helpline had seen a large increase of online help requests during lockdowns, it was assumed that being constantly online had possibly led to more problems. But it turned out that since the beginning of the pandemic, young people did not have more negative experiences (such as experiencing online sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and similar) than before COVID-19. Many respondents said that the atmosphere on social media was now more positive than before. So yes, COVID-19 is hard for young people: school lockdowns, not going out and socialising with friends, and so on. But the online world provided a bright spot in dark times!

The survey was conducted among 1,164 young people in the age range of 12-25 years. Before COVID-19, one third of the young people (33 per cent) has had negative experiences on online, and during lockdown this was 28 per cent.

A possible explanation for the increase in helpline requests might be that, while the number of experiences did not increase maybe the seriousness of the problems did, and with that the need for professional online help. Or maybe during the pandemic, there was less opportunity to talk to friends or school mentors, and hence people searched for online help.

News on the research was released on Safer Internet Day (SID), with a media reach of over 350,000.
On the evening of Safer Internet Day, the Dutch Safer Internet Centre hosted a parents evening with Bureau Jeugd en Media around the same theme: online wellbeing of young people in the COVID-19 period. Questions covered included: What about screentime when everybody is at home and online is the only way to meet people?; Is it okay to game more now?; How to discuss online love and sexuality (now that dating in real life is not currently an option)?; And how to guide kids through these rough times. 380 parents participated.

The Safer Internet Centre also made available a hard-copy postcard that people could send to their internet hero to say thank you… to thank your neighbour for teaching you to do online shopping; to thank your grand-daughter for teaching you to use online video tools; or to thank your teacher for making online lessons interesting, to give just a few examples.

Find out more about Safer Internet Day in the Netherlands. Alternatively, find out more about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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