Social sites called out on child protection

Social sites called out on child protection

Michael Carroll  |   April 19, 2011
The European Commission looks set to tighten a voluntary code of conduct for social networks after research revealed a quarter of children using the sites leave their profiles accessible to all.
A survey of 25,000 children revealed that 77% of 13 to 16 year olds and 38% of those aged 9 to 12 have profiles on social networks, but that a worrying 25% of those leave their profiles open. A further 20% of those also posted their address and, or, phone number on the site, flaunting one of the most basic online security measures available.
The study, conducted by research group EUKidsOnline, looks set to inform a forthcoming EC review into the implementation of the 2009 Safer Social Networking Principles agreement, a voluntary code that saw leading social network operators including Facebook, Bebo and MySpace agree to take steps to protect users aged under 18
Project director Sonia Livingstone, a professor at the London School of Economics, says the research shows age limits introduced by several social networks aren’t working. However it is younger users that are at greatest risk, being “less likely to use privacy options and to understand the safety features that are available,” she notes.
Neelie Kroes, commissioner for the EC’s Digital Agenda, said the onus is on social network operators to take urgent action to protect minors who aren’t safeguarding themselves. “All social networking companies should therefore immediately make minor’s profiles accessible by default only to their approved list of contacts and out of search engines' reach.”

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