Testing safety of children online

In 2009 an agreement was made by social networking service providers to improve child safety online – “Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU”. A European Commission report on progress notes that 77% of 13 to 16 year-olds, and 38% of 9 to 12 year-olds, currently use social-networking websites and the number is continuing to increase. Last December and January tests were carried out on 14 out of the 21 social-networking websites that have signed the agreement. It was found that only Bebo and MySpace have default settings that limit the accessibility of minors’ profiles to their approved list of contacts and only four websites ensure that minors can be contacted by default by friends only. However, the majority of the websites do now give minors age-appropriate safety information and prevent their profiles from being searched via external search engines. The Commission has launched a review of the agreement and is urging providers to remedy the situation. Tests on other websites will take place later in 2011.

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