Bebo and MySpace teens confused over privacy

23 Feb 2007

More than half of teenagers across Europe make their online social network profiles public and disclose a great deal of information; many don’t know what to do about making their information public or private, according to a survey.

The Insafe survey of 21,872 young people from across Europe by European Schoolnet revealed that social networks such as MySpace and Bebo are the most popular websites among teenagers.

The survey shows that more needs to be done to raise awareness of privacy issues and providers need to do more to enable their users to make parts or whole profiles private.

Whereas youngsters seem to be careful on MSN – 56pc don’t accept contacts if they don’t know the person – another 56pc would choose to make their profile public on a social networking site and “write a lot of things” about their life

Another 32pc “don’t know” whether their profile is public or private. European Schoolnet calls for greater alignment between awareness raisers and social network providers to make “private” profiles a more attractive option for all users.

The survey showed that young people are keen to learn about internet safety with 53pc saying they would listen to their teacher if a situation arose and try to act differently, and only 24pc saying they wouldn’t pay attention because “they use the internet everyday”.

When registering on a games site 36pc would give fake information but 53pc would give only the basics.

Some 62pc of teens that have received a ‘happy slapping’ photo said they would report the event to an adult if they thought it was necessary.

However, 35pc would think it was funny to send the photo on to friends.

Around 73pc of youngsters seem to have taken note of internet safety advice as regards going to meet someone they have been chatting with online. Nevertheless, the percentage of 14- to 17-year olds who would go alone to meet the person and sometimes even forget to tell their parents increases progressively right through to the 18-year old age groups.

This pattern can be repeatedly seen in a detailed analysis of the risks young people take online, and underlines the need to focus awareness-raising campaigns on 14- to 17-year olds European Schoolnet warned.

Some 42pc of young people would simply ignore a pornographic picture they were sent by one of their online friends. Another 36pc would show it to their parents or teacher; 20pc would not know what to do in such a situation.

Asked what they would do if they downloaded a free ringtone and since then started receiving premium SMS messages every day that eroded their phone balance, 50pc of European teenagers would try to unsubscribe, 36pc would change their number and under 10pc would not know what to do.

Some 16pc of young people over the age of 18 would not know what to do about premium SMS scam artists ripping off their phone credit.

By John Kennedy