Children And Social Networks

One of the primary concerns facing modern parents in this digital world is how to protect their children from visiting unsuitable and unsafe websites online. It’s common knowledge that the Internet is an effective tool for unsavoury characters to attract and prey on vulnerable children. Now, with the rise of social networks and the ease with which young children can set up profiles; parents are more concerned than ever. Or at least they should be.According to a survey conducted by Ofcom in the UK, 59% of children aged between 8 and 17 use social networks such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook to make new friends. This is despite the fact that these sites generally have a minimum sign-up age of 13 or 14. They claim to remove all underage profiles, but currently no technology exists to help them establish the true age of their members. Consequently many children fall between the cracks, especially if they’re fairly adept at lying. In the virtual world, truth is subjective.Children, particularly adolescents, are often not aware that they can limit access to their profiles with privacy settings, and as a result, all of their personal details become public knowledge. Some proactive networks set the accounts of their younger users to “private” automatically, so that only certain individuals nominated by the user can see his or her profile, but many don’t use this security setting. There is currently a move in the UK to address this issue by making it compulsory for the account settings for all users under the age of 18 to be set to private by default.Social networks are also working on methods that will improve their overall security, including age verification technology and banning all known pedophiles. This is great news but we can’t expect social sites to do all of the work, and parents need to step up to the plate and take their share of responsibility for their children’s online activities.According to statistics provided by Ofcom, it seems that parental concern is unfortunately lacking. 16% of parents aren’t aware of the status of their child’s social profile, so they don’t know who has access to their child’s details. Even more disturbing is the statistic that shows 33% of parents don’t set rules regulating the way in which their children use social networks. Children are left to use their own discretion when choosing applications and making friends. Considering the nature of some of the applications available, as well as the devious character of some users, the concept of a child’s discretion is laughable.No one ever said that protecting your children was going to be easy, and in most instances any action that you take in pursuit of that will make you unpopular. The bottom line is that parenthood is not a popularity contest. Your children need you to protect them, not be their friends, and to do that you sometimes have to become a dragon. But it’s better to endure a few hours of furious sulking than a lifetime of regret. In November 2007, a 13 year old girl hanged herself after an adult with a fake profile directed some hurtful comments at her. You don’t want your children to suffer the same fate.Recommended site:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7325019.stm