Thirty-five per cent of Irish children ages 9-12 use social networks in spite of age limitations, a study has revealed.
This figure was a little less than the European average, which saw 38pc of children ages 9-12 utilising social networking services.
The study, carried out by the London School of Economics for the European Commission, surveyed 25,000 young people aged 9-16 across the EU.
The research revealed that 21pc of 9-to-12-year-olds surveyed had a Facebook profile in Ireland. This is in spite of Facebook’s recommendations that members should be aged 13 and older.
Forty-seven per cent of Irish 13-to-16-year-olds have Facebook profiles.
Forty-nine per cent of Irish 9-to-12-year-olds faked their ages on their Facebook profiles. Among 13-to-16-year-olds in Ireland, 14pc also listed a fake age on Facebook.
Gender did not have much of an impact on the survey, as it was found that 60pc of girls and 58pc of boys between ages 9 and 16 owned a social networking profile.
Across Europe, young children were more likely than older children to have their profile set on public.
However, there were much fewer British and Irish children with public profiles than the European average, which the study attributes to effective awareness campaigns on privacy.
Fourteen per cent of Irish 9-to-12-year-olds have their profiles set on public, along with 8pc of 13-to-16-year-olds.
The study pointed out that those who made their profiles public were also more likely to post personal information on social networks than those with private profiles.
Six per cent of 9-to-12-year-olds in Ireland listed their home address and phone number on Facebook, compared with 11pc of those aged 13-16.
Eleven per cent of Irish children between ages 9 and 12 listed their schools. The number rose dramatically among 13-16-year-olds, where the figure was 58pc.
Forty-five per cent of those surveyed in Europe aged 11 and 12 did not know how to change their privacy settings and 39pc didn’t know how to block another user.
Eight per cent of 9-to-12-year-olds in Ireland had more than 100 contacts on their Facebook accounts, compared to 35pc of 13-to-16-year-olds.
Twenty-five per cent of survey participants aged 9-12 in Ireland contacted people they didn’t know apart from through the internet on social networks, slightly higher than the figure seen in 13-to-16-year-olds, which was 22pc.
When it comes to the parents, 39pc do not allow their children to have social networking profiles in Ireland. Forty-two per cent allow their children to use social networks freely and 20pc only let their children use social networks with permission or supervision.
The study points out that, among children whose parents don’t restrict social networks, most have a profile, including three-quarters of the youngest ages across Europe.
However, among parents who do place restrictions on social network use, children appear to respect this decision and don’t have a profile. This is different among teenagers, where more than half of them across Europe use social networking sites to oppose their parents’ ban or were subject to parental monitoring.
A Facebook spokesperson responded to the study, urging educators and parents to help children and teenagers stay safe online.
“Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don’t circumvent a system or lie about their age,” said the spokesperson.
“We appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter and believe this will provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, safety advocates and Internet services to focus on this area, with the ultimate goal of keeping young people of all ages safe online.
“We agree with safety experts that communication between parents/guardians and kids about their use of the Internet is vital. We believe that services such as Facebook have a role to play in encouraging this: the recent announcements around social reporting and our safety center are testimonies to our ongoing efforts in ensuring we are giving detailed and helpful advice to help support these conversations.
“Just as parents are always teaching and reminding kids how to cross the road safely, talking about internet safety should be just as important a lesson to learn,” said the spokesperson.