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Parents setting up Facebook profiles for kids under 13 contribute to online bullying

Parents setting up Facebook profiles for their children who aren’t old enough to use the service contribute indirectly to online bullying. 

A survey compiled by security software firm McAfee and the Anti-Bullying Alliance, reveals that 45 per cent of parents have set up profiles for children aged under 13, which is the minimum required age for a Facebook account. 

Despite ignoring the rules, 45 per cent of parents are concerned about their child being bullied online. Over half of children surveyed (53 per cent) regularly access the internet without parental supervision. 

Parents setting up Facebook profiles for kids under 13 contribute to online bullying
Parents lack of knowledge unwittingly puts children in harm’s way

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Parental Internet SecurityAs well as potentially putting their children at risk, the data shows that a third of parents (33 per cent) think that their child might be a bully themselves. Two fifths (38 per cent) of parents think that their children might be victims of online abuse. 

Interestingly, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of children surveyed said they’d witnessed the bullying of a friend or classmate online and just 16 per cent said they’d experienced cruel behavior themselves. 

The survey asked 1,012 children aged between 10-17 and 1,103 adults with at least one child aged 10-17. 

Raj Samani, online safety expert at McAfee, said: “As a father myself, 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. 

“This is alarming as 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.” 

Parental controls, which come build in to Windows and Mac machines and are offered free by all of the UK’s main ISPs, allow parents to restrict access to social networks entirely, or can limit access to them at certain times of day. 

Even though tools are available, the report shows that a lack of understanding shows that some parents don’t know how to enable them or understand the basic terms and conditions of sites like Facebook. 

The report comes in the wake of ISPs pledging to spend £25 million on raising awareness of online safety. Sky recently announced the launch of Broadband Shield, a new free service that gives parents easier control over what children see online. 

Broadband Shield is applied at the network level, meaning all devices in the home connected to the broadband router will be affected by filtering. TalkTalk’s HomeSafe product works on the same principle. All devices, laptops, desktops, tablets and phones connected to the home broadband network will be affected by any filtering choices which have been enabled. 

BT and Virgin Media are expected to roll out similar systems before the end of the year and Plusnet has confirmed that it’s working on a whole home, network-level solution too

Separate data gathered by the UK’s leading ISPs shows that while 83 per cent of parents have talked to their children about online safety, 81 per cent of parents are unsure where to turn for advice. 

Luke Roberts, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance calls for greater education of the threats of online bullying for parents as well as children. Roberts said: “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.” 

“We need to make cyber-bullying a thing of the past and ensure a digital future for our children that is safe, fun and connected; where children take responsibility for their own safety online, but more importantly know where to turn for help when things go wrong.” 

McAfee security software such as LiveSafe lets users remotely manage Facebook passwords and Family Protection allows parents to restrict access to certain websites and keep a log of what sites children visit online. 

Image: Jonas Strandell/Flickr


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