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© Alberto Favaro

EC Representation in Malta

Many European children unaware of privacy risks on social networks
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20/04/2011 11:10:24

77% of 13-16 year olds and 38% of 9-12 year olds in the EU have a profile on a social networking site, according to a pan-European survey carried out for the European Commission. Yet, a quarter of children who use social networking sites like Facebook, Hyves, Tuenti, Nasza-Klasa SchuelerVZ, Hi5, Iwiw or Myvip say their profile is set to "public" meaning that everyone can see it, and many of these display their address and/or phone number.

    Many European children unaware of privacy risks on social networks

    The survey of 25,000 young people in 25 European countries (Malta was not included), published by the EUKidsOnline network, shows that 38% of 9-12 year olds say they have a profile on social networking sites, ranging from 70% in The Netherlands to 25% in France. Social networks are even more popular among teenagers with 77% of 13-16 year olds saying they have a profile.

    15% of 9-12 year olds say they have more than 100 contacts on their profile, with a high of 47% in Hungary. Among 13-16 year olds, Belgian, Danish, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish and UK children are more likely to have more than 100 contacts than children from other countries.

    A quarter of children on social networking sites say they have their profile is open to public. One fifth of children whose profile is public say this profile displays their address and/or phone number. In 15 out of 25 countries, 9-12 year olds are more likely than 13-16 year olds to have public profiles.

    Only 56% of 11-12 year olds say they know how to change privacy settings on their social network profile. Older youngsters have better skills with 78% of 15-16 year olds saying they know how to change their privacy settings.

    According to a recent study commissioned by the Malta Communications Authority, 97% of minors between the ages of 7 to 15 have an internet connection at home. The study shows that 78% use the Internet for academic purposes whilst the use of gaming and social networks follow at 70% and 66% respectively.

    The study also shows that parents are mostly unaware of the potential risks. A third of minors have a computer in the bedroom with minimal opportunity for effective supervision. Moreover, many children under the age of 13 report that they use social networks such as Facebook and MSN despite that these sites do not accept subscription of individuals under this age.

    The Malta Communications Authority is coordinating the so-called “BeSmartOnline!” project, launched a few weeks ago, aimed at raising awareness and educating minors, carers and educators on the safer use of the Internet, establishing, operating and promoting reporting facilities for internet abuse as well as providing support to respective victims and their families.

    The project is co-financed by the Safer Internet Programme of the European Union and the centre will form part of INSAFE, the European network of Awareness Centres.

    The Commission is monitoring the implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU, the self-regulatory agreement signed by social networking companies in which they commit to implement a series of measures on their services in order to ensure the safety of minors.

    Given the decreasing age of children using the internet and social networking services and the fact that more children are accessing the internet via mobile devices, the Commission has launched a review of the current industry self-regulatory agreements in the field.

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    Last update: 08/06/2011  |Top