Kids escape parents’ watchful eye through Facebook and Bebo

20 Feb 2008

While a high percentage of Irish parents say they monitor what their children do on the web, only 46pc admitted they really understood what social networking was, despite the fact that 70pc of children and young adults under the age of 18 use sites such as Bebo and Facebook regularly.

Research carried out in association with the Make IT Secure internet safety campaign showed that children and young adults from half of all households in Ireland are online but 70pc of parents say they don’t know what their children communicate online.

However, it seems that children and adults alike do not practice enough caution when it comes to using the various social networking sites out there.

Research by Espion showed that a staggering 91pc of all profiles in the Ireland network on Facebook are public and can be viewed by anyone else in the network.

You don’t have to be Irish to be Irish: anyone can join the Ireland network on Facebook and there are currently over 200,000 individuals and growing.

In addition to this, 19pc of Facebook users named their employer while 10pc named their partner and almost all (99pc) displayed their full name with 70pc giving out their full date of birth.

“Parents need to realise that their children are communicating through social networking sites on a regular basis. Many of their online ‘friends’ may not be known to them personally and they may unwittingly give information and clues as to their real identity,” said Audrey Conlon, chair of the Internet Advisory Board.

“The research shows that while many parents believe they are monitoring their children’s online activity, less than half are familiar with social networking sites. We are calling on them to educate their children on the dangers and familiarise themselves with these sites and learn how to easily set up safety features and controls.”

This research precedes the free Make IT Secure parents seminar with international speakers being held this Friday 22 February at the Conrad Hotel in Dublin.

The seminar will have talks by international expert on social networking, John Carr, who is an advisor to the UK government, as well as Dr Rachel O’Connell, chief safety officer for Bebo.

The statistics that surprise this writer is that only 70pc of Irish kids are on social networking sites – where are the other 30pc?

By Marie Boran