Young Say They Need Help And Guidance With Online Privacy

Keeping personal information private is the thing that young internet users most worry about, according to research conducted by media and telecoms regulator Ofcom. Young people said they needed more guidance on privacy, the research said.

Ofcom has conducted a study of the access that people aged seven to 16 have to the internet and what their attitudes to its use are.

The research found that the issue which users between 11 and 16 years old most needed advice about was privacy.

"Respondents aged 11-16 were asked what kind of help and advice they felt young people need to stay safe online," said the report based on the research. "Children and young people most frequently say advice about how to retain privacy and not share personal information (54%) is needed. The next most frequently mentioned areas are how to retain security of information (28%)."

The view was more pronounced in the older children. Of the 13 to 16 year olds 58% said that keeping personal information private was the subject in which they needed the most help and guidance. Children aged seven to 11 were not asked the question because of the high incidence of 'don't know' as an answer in a pilot survey Ipsos MORI, the research company which conducted the study, said.

The second most common concern that young people had about going online was about the security of information. The survey found that 28% of 11 to 16 year olds said that they needed advice on keeping information secure, on the use of strong passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs).

The research was conducted via 797 face to face interviews with young people and their parent or carer. It sought to discover how young people used technologies such as mobile phones and game consoles to access the internet and whether they were exposed to inappropriate content.

The survey found that only one in eight of the children talked to who had a mobile phone that could access the internet actually used it for that purpose. Of those people, two thirds had unfettered access to the whole internet, rather than simply to mobile operator-approved 'gated' access only to certain sites or services.

The survey found that despite the fact that children had access to the open, unmediated internet, the rules that parents and carers laid down regarding use were more to do with cost than safety.

Just one in ten of the parents or carers whose children had internet access through mobile phones or games consoles had major concerns about the material they might find.

"The three mobile phone rules most frequently mentioned overall amongst parents/carers whose child uses a mobile phone are related to costs and limiting types of activity to calls and texts only," said the report. "Parents/carers do not tend to mention rules relating to staying safe online spontaneously, nor particularly frequently when prompted."

"Among parents/carers whose child uses a games console to go online, when prompted the most frequently mentioned rules regarding general use relate to accessing age-suitable content (44%) or times of the day when the games console can/cannot be used (36%)," it said. "A smaller proportion mention rules relating to the internet: 15% say online games only, around one in seven (14%) say no internet access is allowed; 12% say only certain websites; and 10% mention only to go on websites when supervised by a parent/adult."