Internet users' experience of harm online 2019

30 May 2019

This research was commissioned by Ofcom with advice on the research design provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The main objective of this research is to quantify concerns about, reported experiences of and potential sources of online harm in three key categories:

  • Content that people view, read or listen to online and interactions with other users
  • Data/privacy
  • Hacking/security

The research also explores awareness and opinions of the current level of regulation that applies to broadcast and online environments.

Summary of key findings:

  • In total, 78% of adult internet users have at least one unprompted concern about going online.
  • After prompting, the proportion of adult internet users concerned about at least once aspect of going online increases to 83% in relation to children and 84% more generally. In comparison, 91% of 12-15 year old internet users have at least one concern.
  • Adults and 12-15 year olds’ most commonly mentioned concern is with children’s exposure to bullying, abusive behaviour or threats (55% and 53% respectively).
  • However, despite the range of concerns expressed about going online, a majority of internet users believe that the benefits of going online outweigh the risks.
  • Overall, 61% of adult and 79% of 12-15 year old internet users claim that they have had at least one potentially harmful experience online in the past 12 months. Around three in ten (29%) of adult and 38% of 12-15 year old internet users have experienced something that they rated as ‘harmful’ (annoying, upsetting or frustrating).
  • Social media sites, and Facebook in particular, are the most commonly cited sources of potential online harm.
  • 19% of adults and 25% of 12-15 year olds say that they have taken action to report harmful content they have seen online.
  • Online media is seen to be less heavily regulated compared to more traditional media. A quarter of adult internet users believe there are no regulations or restrictions for social media (26%) or video sharing services (25%).
  • A majority of adult internet users believe existing regulation should be at least maintained, and there is majority support for increased regulation of social media, video sharing and IM services.

Internet users' concerns about and experience of potential online harms 2019   (PDF, 2.4 MB)

Internet users' concerns about and experience of potential online harms data tables 2019 - adults (XLSX, 9.5 MB)

Internet users' concerns about and experience of potential online harms data tables 2019 - childrens (XLSX, 3.3 MB)