Although sites like Facebook supposedly prohibit individuals under the age of 13 from joining, this rule has failed to prevent millions of children from becoming members, according to a new survey of over 25,000 European kids by the London School of Economics’ EU Kids Online project.
For example, 28% of British children ages 9-10 have a profile on an online social network, with the majority using Facebook, EU Kids Online found. The proportion increases to 59% among British children ages 11-12, who are also supposedly prohibited from joining Facebook; many of the kids surveyed admitted to routinely lying about their age in order to gain access to social networks. Overall 67% of British kids 9-16 said they had a social profile.
Turning to Internet use in general, British kids ages 9-16 spend an average 102 minutes per day online, which compares to an average 88 minutes for European kids overall. Half of British kids surveyed said they go online using a mobile device, including 33% who access the Web via a mobile phone and 26% who use tablets or other handheld devices.
The survey also uncovered some trends which many parents will find disturbing, as 11% of British kids ages 9-16 said they had been exposed to sexual content online in the last twelve months, and 8% said they had been subject to online bullying in the same period. A smaller proportion, 2%, reported seeing explicit images which also featured violence. Meanwhile roughly one in five British teenage girls have visited Web sites which promote eating disorders (yes, these do exist).
The study authors warned: “UK Children are more likely to go online via a mobile or hand-held device, putting them in the vanguard of new risks associated with personal internet access and, equally, making protective oversight by their parents more difficult.”