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Children in the UK lead their EU peers in social networks use, but many are unaware of basic privacy risks
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Seventy seven per cent of 13-16 year olds and 38 per cent 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 across Europe 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. The UK leads in both age groups in terms of use with 88 per cent of 13-16 year olds and 43 per cent of 9-12 year olds saying they have a social network profile. However, its youngsters are better aware of privacy than the EU average with only 9% among 9-12 year olds and 11 per cent among 13-16 year olds having their profiles as "public".

    Children in the UK lead their EU peers in social networks use, but many are unaware of basic privacy risks

    Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: “Growing numbers of children are on social networking sites but many are not taking all necessary steps to protect themselves online. These children are placing themselves in harm's way, vulnerable to stalkers and groomers. All social networking companies should therefore immediately make minors' profiles accessible by default only to their approved list of contacts and out of search engines' reach. And those companies that have not yet signed up to the EU's Safer Networking Principles should do so without delay so as to ensure our children's safety."

    The survey of 25,000 young people in 25 European countries, published today by the EUKidsOnline network, shows that a quarter of children on social networking sites say they have their profile 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 per cent 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 per cent of 15-16 year olds saying they know how to change their privacy settings.

    Next steps

    The figures highlight the importance of the European Commission's upcoming review of the implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU. This agreement was brokered by the Commission in 2009 (IP/09/232) when major social networking companies agreed to implement measures to ensure the online safety of their under 18s users. The Commission will shortly publish the first batch of the results of the assessment of the implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU by the following signatories: Arto, Bebo, Facebook, Giovani, Hyves, IRC Galleria, MySpace, Nasza-Klasa, Netlog, One.lt, Rate, SchuelerVZ, Tuenti and Zap (see IP/09/232, IP/10/144).

    The report published today also shows that some of the social networking sites that are popular among youngsters in Europe are not signatories to the Safer Social Networking Principles.

     

    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

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    Last update: 18/04/2011  |Top