Children signing up for under-age social networking profiles

26 March 2010

facebook 2Children as young as 8 years old are ignoring social networking site rules and creating their own site profiles, new Ofcom research reveals.

The research found that a quarter of children aged 8-12 who use the internet at home say they have a profile on Facebook, Bebo or MySpace.

All these sites have a minimum user age of 13.

Privacy settings

But 83 per cent of these children say they have their profile set so that it can only be seen by friends, and 4 per cent have a profile that can't be seen.

Nine in ten parents of these children who are aware that their child visits social networking sites (93 per cent) also say that they check what their child is doing on these types of sites. However one in six (17 per cent) parents of this group are not aware that their child visits social networking sites.

Ofcom's annual Children's Media Literacy Audit provides an overview of media literacy among children and young people and their parents and carers.

Facebook

We have also published Nielsen internet audience data which showed that in October 2009 just over a third (37 per cent) of  5-7 year old who use the internet at home had visited Facebook - although they did not necessarily have a profile.

Ofcom's research found that downloading or watching TV programmes or films on the internet is on the increase amongst children aged 8 - 15.

At the same time,  44 per cent of 12-15s say they think that downloading shared copies of films and music for free should not be illegal , with 18 per cent saying they don't know and 38 per cent saying it should be illegal.

Seeing is believing

One in five of 8 - 11s (18 per cent) and half of 12 - 15s (48 per cent) say they visit blogs or sites like Wikipedia where people can add or change information.

Children aged 8-11 are much more likely than 12-15s to believe that the information on these types of sites is all or mostly true (70 per cent vs. 48 per cent) with boys aged 8-15 more likely than girls of this age to believe that all or most of the information is true (59 per cent vs. 46 per cent).

Forty per cent of 8-11s and 12-15s also believe that all or most of the information on social networking sites is true.

And just over a quarter of  12-15s (27 per cent) who use search engines think that search engines only return information from truthful websites.

Consumer guides

We  have a video and guide on how to manage your children's access to digital TV and internet content, which includes advice on parental controls.

We also have advice guides on parental controls for mobile phones and parental controls for games consoles and portable media players