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Parents warned on social media risk

Parents could be unintentionally exposing their children to risk by setting them up social media accounts before they are old enough, a charity has warned.

Almost half of parents (45%) with pre-teen children have set up a Facebook account on their behalf, flouting rules which ban under-13s, the National Children's Bureau said.

A poll, conducted by the charity's Anti-Bullying Alliance and online security firm McAfee, found that while a quarter of youngsters spend between four and six hours a day online, much of the internet use is taking place "away from the watchful eye of a parent", with over half of children being allowed on the internet without parental supervision.

The research, released to mark the start of anti-bullying week, found that while j ust one in 10 parents believes that their children are safe online, only a third of par ents admit to not having had any conversation with their children about internet safety.

Forty five percent of parents are concerned about the prospect of their child being bullied online and a third of parents think their child may be a cyber-bully themselves, according to the survey of 1,000 parents with children aged 10 to 17 and 1,000 youngsters from this age bracket.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance and McAfee have developed an online tool kit to help educate parents how to keep their children safe while surfing the web.

Raj Samani, online safety expert at McAfee, said: "It's worrying that parents are unknowingly enabling their children's bad behaviour online with nearly half of all parents setting up social profiles, despite a third admitting to not having discussed online safety and even fewer having installed parental controls across all devices.

"Setting up these social profiles without installing parental controls or even having conversations about how to stay safe online, means children are ill-prepared to understand and deal with online issues such as cyber-bullying.

"This research shows that for many parents a lack of understanding and knowledge around online safety is causing real problems. Parents need to feel empowered to be able to set the right security and privacy settings for their family - across all devices - and to have the right conversations with their kids about what is and isn't suitable behaviour online."

Luke Roberts, national coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, added: "Cyber-bullying is increasingly an accepted part of online-culture.

" We know that young people are struggling to understand what is appropriate online behaviour and how to keep safe, and that parents are struggling to know how best to protect their children from potentially harmful online experiences.

"As adults we need to teach children and young people digital skills and set boundaries so they are able realise the huge benefits and opportunities that the internet offers in terms of accessing information and making friends, but also ensures that they are safe and free from being bullied both online and offline.

"Currently there is no clear leadership, no coordination and no adequate educational model in place to tackle the growing issue of cyber-bullying. The Anti-Bullying Alliance are calling for a national debate on children and young people's use of the internet and their online safety in the 21st Century, focusing specifically on cyber-bullying, which will bring together children, parents, industry, providers, NGOs, government, and educators."


From Belfast Telegraph