Internet : Children Take Risks on Social Networks, Survey Shows

European Social Policy, May 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Internet : Children Take Risks on Social Networks, Survey Shows


Whether they are teenagers or still children, the youngest in Europe are big fans of Facebook and other social networks on the internet. More than a quarter of them leave their account (personal data, comments, photos) public', according to a survey conducted by the European Commission among 25,000 young people in 25 EU countries, and published on 18 April. Without data protection on social networks, details - such as age, address and telephone number, among other things - are accessible to anyone, sometimes even through search engines. "These children are putting themselves in danger vis-a-vis internet stalkers," stated Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes. The solution she is pushing for is that all social networks immediately limit access to minor's profiles to just their approved contact list, and also make minors unfindable' through search engines, such as Google. Social networks are mostly popular among teenagers, with 77% of 13-16-year-olds having an existing profile. Among 13-16 year-olds, Belgian, Danish, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish and British children are most likely to have over a hundred contacts, as compared to other countries in the EU.

Officially, sites like Facebook - which its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, said had 500 million active members in July 2010 - is only open to children over the age of 13. In reality, in the EU 38% of 9-12-year-olds claim to have a profile on social networks - with numbers ranging from 25% in France to 70% in the Netherlands. Some 15% of 9-12-year-olds claim to have over 100 contacts on their profile, with a maximum of 47% in Hungary. A fifth of children whose profile is public have put their address and/or telephone number on their profile. In 15 out of the 25 countries, 9-12-year-olds are more likely to have public profiles than 13-16-year-olds. In other words, while sites claim to publish information about security - for instance there is a confidentiality' tab on Facebook - this information is not getting through: only 56% of 11-12-year-olds claim they know how to change confidentiality settings on their profile.

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