Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Under-age social networking investigated

Under-age social networking investigated

Children as young as eight years old are creating their own profiles on the social networking site Facebook.

In connection with Safer Internet Day on 8 February, students from the Knights Templar School in Baldock carried out a survey within their school to see how many of them used the site, questioning 405 pupils across all year groups.

They were surprised to discover that more that two thirds of students admitted having a Facebook account before their thirteenth birthday, even though Facebook asks that their site is not used by anyone under the age of 13.

"I met a girl and added her onto Facebook. It turns out that her profile was actually re-created by someone else."
Dan, 17

Amy, 13, said: "I don't have a Facebook site, but I do know people who have had them before they got to my age."

Students also found that, despite being aware of the dangers of befriending people they didn't know online, adding strangers as Facebook friends was more common than School Reporters expected.

School Reporters set up the camera
School Reporters Charlie and Charlie help shoot the video report

17-year-old Dan shared his experience with School Reporters: "I met a girl and added her onto Facebook. It turns out that her profile was actually re-created by someone else."

The teenager explains that he always thought of himself as being someone who was careful about what he did on these sites. "Now I won't ever add anyone to my profile that I don't really know," he said.

Head teacher Mr Pickering felt that it's was a common problem in schools and that parents were often unaware of what their children were doing. "I think that many of the things that students do virtually - if they were doing them in real life - their mums and dads would be horrified," he said.

I don't have a Facebook site, but I do know people who have had them before they got to my age.
Amy, 13

A spokesperson for Facebook said: "At Facebook, we have a clear policy - if you want to use the site, you should be at least 13-years-old.

"We care a lot about people, young and old, and we know that the people who use Facebook will enjoy it more - and carry on enjoying it - if they learn more about using the internet in the safest possible way.

"We're keen to ensure Facebook is one of the safest places on the internet for users of all ages which is why we've already been working hard alongside industry experts such as Childnet to put in place features like our Safety Centre."

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