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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Children upset by spam e-mail
Boy on internet
Children are as susceptible to spam as adults
Four out of five children receive inappropriate spam e-mails touting online drugs, get-rich-quick schemes and porn, a survey has suggested.

Internet security firm Symantec found that most children felt uncomfortable and offended by the junk messages.

For the study, Symantec asked 1,000 US youngsters between the ages of seven and 18 about their experiences with spam.

More than 80% of those interviewed received inappropriate spam on a daily basis, with half saying it made them feel uncomfortable and offended.

Dangers of spam

Children, like adults, are bombarded by spam advertising Viagra, pornographic material and other inappropriate products and services.

80% received sweepstake messages
62% receive information on dating services
47% receive links to pornographic sites

One in five children opened and read spam, and more than half of them checked their e-mail without parental knowledge.

Nearly half had received links to pornographic websites.

"As with any e-mail user, kids are just as susceptible as adults to being bombarded by spam," said Steve Cullen, Senior Vice President of Symantec.

"Parents need to educate their children about the dangers of spam and how they can avoid being exposed to offensive content or becoming innocent victims of online fraud," he added.

Good or bad?

Most of those interviewed had personal e-mail accounts but many seemed to be confused about the dangers of spam.

Talk to children about inappropriate web content
Teach children not to give out personal information while surfing
Trust your children and do not be overprotective
Know your children's friends
Check e-mails with your children

Some 38% did not tell their parents that they had been upset by spam and 22% said that their parents had not talked to them about spam.

Nearly one in three did not know whether spam was good or bad for them.

Spam now accounts for half of all e-mails sent and has become a massive nuisance for both home and business surfers.

Governments are beginning to recognise the menace of junk e-mail.

In the autumn the European Union will make unsolicited messages illegal across all member states.

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23 May 03  |  Technology
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22 May 03  |  Technology
Mid-week suffers spam overload
10 May 03  |  Technology
Government to crack down on spam
06 May 03  |  Technology

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