Social networks are being used more and more by
children. Over 20% of 9-12 year olds use Facebook and 38% are using online social
network tools. This raises concerns revolving around the protection of privacy
and private data, cyber bullying, and contact with strangers and exposure to
There are a number of basic recommendations
that help in addressing these issues:
1. Parents should promote a healthy and balanced
lifestyle before focusing on the "technical" aspects about the use of
new technologies and accessing social networks. A healthy life balance in
itself reduces the risks of children being harmed online.
2. Parents and adults should practice what they
preach since many adults themselves spend hours in front of screens and set a
bad example for their children.
3. Parents should also make the most out of
available tools to protect their children from advertising and inappropriate
4. Companies such as online social network
providers should implement "easy fixes" which benefit everyone via
measures such as systematic encryption of private data or a high privacy by
5. Companies should also enhance user control
over privacy features such as the access of applications to phone book contacts
and the likes.
6. Finally, more awareness raising needs to be
done around the features of social networks and how these work in order to
reduce misuse or abuse of these features (for instance, the "like"
button and the spread of spam).
As regards children, they require specific
attention. Children are considered to be vulnerable users and as such, should
be entitled special protection measures online and offline.
Services and products (devices) offered to
children need to be age-appropriate and must be at the forefront of business
concerns. So far, smartphones and tablets have a single interface designed for
adults but used by children.
The role of family organisations, including
COFACE, is not only to lobby companies and public authorities to create a safer
online environment for children but also to educate and raise awareness of both
parents and children on the positive use of new technologies.
Published on 05 Jul 2012
Updated on 28 Nov 2014