As many as 43 per cent of people with internet access have online ‘friends’ they have never met in real life, according to research released today by Kaspersky Lab, Europe’s largest antivirus company. The online research, undertaken by YouGov, is being released to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2011 and highlights that over half (54%) of those aged between 18 and 24 have online friends they haven’t met in real life, identifying the possibility that young people today are sharing personal information from strangers.
This makes worrying reading when compared with the findings of a Europe-wide survey by EU Kids Online. This survey found that a lack of discrimination in online relationships risked exposing vulnerable young people to sexual messages (received by 15 per cent of 11 to 16 year olds), data misuse (experienced by nine per cent of 11 to 16 year olds) and bullying posts (received by five per cent of nine to 16 year olds, but identified as by far the most upsetting.)
With a third of nine to 16 year olds now surfing the web on a mobile device, it is imperative that new ways of protecting young people are implemented.
The YouGov survey found that parents are often unaware of what their children are looking at on their mobile phones. Around half (49 per cent) of parents with children under 18 who have internet-enabled mobile devices don’t monitor their children’s mobile web habits. With young people generally regarding their mobile phone as personal and private, for the 51 per cent of parents who do supervise their children’s mobile phone habits, there is the risk of such behaviour being seen as upsetting and invasive by their children.
Kaspersky Lab is committed to helping young people and their parents address these challenges and acquire the knowledge and tools they need to stay safe online.
“A parent instinctively wants to protect their child from harm,” said Malcolm Tuck, managing director of Kaspersky Lab UK. “That may not always be possible, but there is much we can do to minimise the danger, both in real life and in the virtual world.”
“We also believe that technology alone is not the answer, which is why our dedicated website www.kaspersky.co.uk/safer contains advice and guidance for parents, guardians and children. Protecting young people online means talking to them about the dangers and giving them the confidence and control they need to surf safely,” continued Tuck.
To learn more about the broad range of activities taking place around Safer Internet Day: Our Virtual Lives, please visit www.saferinternet.org.