Ireland and the UK have some of the most secure teenage users of Facebook despite having some of the highest usage levels in Europe, an EU wide study released today revealed.
The EU Kids Online survey headed by the London School of Economics found that 35% of Irish children under the age of 13 have a profile on Facebook, a number which increases to 86% for teenagers between the ages of 13 to 16. In the UK 43% of those surveyed under the age of 13 are on the social network, this increases to 88% for those over the age of 13.
The study also found that while fewer Irish preteens, aged between 9 and 12 years old, are on the social networking site than the EU average (38%) more teenagers between 13 and 16 years were on the site. Some 77% of EU teenagers between 13 and 16 are signed up to Facebook compared to 86% of Irish teens of the same age (88% for the UK).
The report, ‘Social Networking, Age and Privacy’, surveyed 25,000 children and teenagers from across Europe about their use of social networking websites.
The report also found that Irish and British teens’ are more likely to set their profiles to ‘private’ than their European colleagues. This, the study believes, comes as a result of effective information campaigns in the two countries. Hungarian teens are the most public with nearly two thirds (60%) of teenagers allowing public access to their profiles.
However, while Irish and British teens may be the most secure many are still in breach of EU and Facebook regulations by registering with the site. Data protection law prohibit the collection of personal data about a minor without parental consent, this includes information that could be placed on a Facebook profile.
Users who do lie about their age in order to access the social network are liable to have their profiles permanently deleted if discovered. Facebook policy says,
If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from a child under age 13, please contact us through this help page.
The study suggests that “age-specific privacy settings” may be a way of protecting children and teens who use these sites. It goes on to suggest that social networking sites should provide better age verification methods to prevent ‘underage’ users from signing up.