Parents Fear For Networked Kids
Internet experts have called on social network sites to do more to protect children as a survey reveals that three-quarters (72 per cent) of parents spy on their children.
Internet experts have called on social network sites to do more to protect children as a survey reveals that three-quarters (72 per cent) of parents spy on their children due to fears over their safety.
The research, from online identity firm Garlik, found that more than 750,000 UK children aged 8-12 violate social networks’ own age verification processes, despite minimum age limits on the likes of Facebook (13), Bebo (13) and MySpace (14).
This lack of trust has forced parents to take matters into their own hands - according to Garlik CEO, Tom Ilube - including one in four (25 per cent) admitting to secretly logging onto their child’s social network page. A quarter (26 per cent) of parents have even gone as far as setting up their own social networking page to spy on their kids.
Social networking sites should be more concerned
“That parents feel compelled to monitor their children on this scale should send a powerful message to the big social networking sites,” said Ilube. “With three quarters of a million underage users in the UK, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo need to take their own age restrictions far more seriously to help allay parent’s real fears.”
Parents have good reason to feel uneasy about apparent slack age verification systems on social networks. Garlik’s research also found that while one in four 8-15 year olds (26 per cent) admit to having strangers on their social networking page, a fifth (20 per cent) have actually gone on to meet people face-to-face that they’ve previously only ‘met’ online.
Equally concerning, two thirds (66 per cent) of the 1,000 children aged 8-15 that Garlik surveyed even posted potentially compromising information on their pages, such as where they went to school and their mobile number.
Government should be responsible
Garlik’s research is the latest in a line of reports urging more action on children’s Internet usage. This spring the UK government’s Byron Review recommended the establishment of a “UK Council for Child Internet Safety” which would report to the Prime Minister and be responsible for a national strategy for online safety.
Bebo’s site carries a ‘Webwise’ guide for concerned parents, at least, and the message of the potential threats of social networking sites would appear to be filtering through to web-savvy parents.
Of the 1,030 parents interviewed by Garlik, more than half (58 per cent) say they are more diligent now than a year ago when it comes to monitoring their children’s use of social networking sites. Nearly all – 89 per cent – have spoken to their children about the potential threats posed by social networks.
“Children are at the vanguard of the social networking phenomenon, using [social network sites] in the same way other generations used the telephone,” Garlik’s Ilube added. “With the summer holidays upon us and kids spending hours on the Internet, busy parents can’t be expected to monitor their children’s activities all the time.”
Ilube welcomed recent proposals from the UK Government’s culture select committee looking into protecting children online but concluded by challenging Facebook, Bebo and MySpace to provide more assistance.