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Child Safety

Rod Munday | Tuesday May 05, 2009

Categories: Other Topics, Social Networking, Child Safety

In 2008, the Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTF) brought together leaders from Internet service providers, social network sites, academia, education, child safety and public policy advocacy organizations to discuss child safety issues online (Palfrey et al. 2008, 4).

Eight social network sites submitted to the Task Force (including Bebo, Facebook, Google Orkut and MySpace). All provide some kind of a technology-driven mechanism through which users could combat online abuse (Palfrey et al. 2008, 24).  These included age restrictions for inappropriate content, parental control and the ability to report abuse to the site’s operators (ibid.).

Media fears

The ISTF recognised that contemporary fears about the risks posed by the internet had risen but the number of cases have not. They identified main risk for children on social network sites as bullying, although the rare cases of sexual solicitation online have received far more media attention.


Bullying is the most frequent threat that minors face both online and offline. This ISTF finding was also supported by independent research conducted in Europe by Microsoft’s consumer and online division into the web habits of 20,000 14 to 19-year-olds. They found that 29% of the teenagers it quizzed have suffered bullying while using the web (BBC 2009c). The bullying that is reported on social network sites most often are cases of peer-to-peer harassment where children are bullying other children of their own age (Palfrey et al. 2008, 4-5).

In the US, offline bullying tends to peak in middle school (children aged 11-13 years), but online harassment tends to peak later and continue into high school (teens aged 14–19 years). Perpetrators may appear to be anonymous, but this does not mean that the victims do not know who they are. A survey found that 42.4% of youth who report being cyberbullied also reported being bullied at school (Palfrey et al. 2008, 17). Reports of...

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