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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
Children divulge information online
A child sits at a computer
Children are willing to trade privacy for gifts
A university study in the US has found that American children are easily enticed to give out personal information on the internet, especially if they are promised a free gift.

The study by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication found that in exchange for a free gift:

  • Almost 65% are willing to give out the name of their favourite stores
  • Over 54% will give out the names of their parents' favourite stores
  • Forty-four percent are willing to say the type of car the family drives
  • Nearly 40% are willing to give out the amount of their allowance, whether their parents talk a lot about politics and what they do at the weekend

The study found that 96% of parents and three-quarters of children believe that parental permission should be gained before divulging private information to web marketers.
An adult and a child work on a computer
The study suggests that parents surf with their kids

But "while children seem to share their parent's concern about online privacy, many kids are nevertheless willing to give out sensitive information with the enticement of a free gift," said Professor Joseph Turow, author of the report.

Privacy discussions

He recommended that families should talk in detail about privacy and the web.

He strongly encouraged parents to learn how information was collected and used by websites.

"Parents need to better understand the web's ability to track information and kids need to be engaged in serious discussions with their parents about privacy and sharing information," said Professor Turow.

Skirting the law

The federal government began enforcing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in April.

The law bans web sites from collecting personal information from children without seeking their parent's permission.

Before the law was enacted, government research found that only 1% of sites asked children to get their parent's approval before divulging personal details.

But the law applies only to children younger than 13, and the study found that older teens were more than twice as likely to volunteer information.

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16 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Action on cyber crime 'too slow'
08 Apr 00 | Americas
US struggles with cyber-crime
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