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Kids and Social Media

Kids and Social Media

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Published by Beth Carroll

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Published by: Beth Carroll on Apr 20, 2011
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Social Networking, Age and Privacy
Sonia Livingstone, Kjartan Ólafsson and Elisabeth Staksrud
Widespread social networking by youth
Over one third of 9-12 year olds and threequarters of 13-16 year olds who use the internetin Europe have their own profile on a socialnetworking site (SNS).
Social networking hasbecome one of the most popular activities online,as shown by the
EU Kids Online 
survey of 9-16year old internet users in 25 countries (Figure 1).
59% of 9-16 year old internet users in Europe have an SNS profile.See Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Görzig, A., and Ólafsson, K. (2011).
Risks and safety on the internet: The perspective of European children. Full Findings.
LSE, London: EU Kids Online.
The unweighted total number of respondents with a SNS profilewas 15,303. For the 23% of internet users who say they have morethan one profile, this report concerns the SNS they use
the most 
. Thedata in this report are weighted using (i) design weights to adjust forunequal probabilities of selection; (ii) non-response weights to correctfor differing levels of response across population subgroups; and (iii)
Figure 1: Children's use of SNS by country and age
QC313: Do you have your OWN profile on a social networking sitethat you currently use, or not?Base: All children who use the internet.a European weight to adjust for country contribution to the resultsaccording to population size. For analysis within countries, design-and non-response weights are used. For analysis across countries,all three weights are used. Thus the proportion of children usingeach SNS is estimated as if the sample were a simple randomsample of all internet-using children in Europe.
Social networking sites (SNS) are popular amongEuropean children: 38% of 9-12 year olds and 77%of 13-16 year olds have a profile. Facebook is usedby one third of 9-16 year old internet users.Age restrictions are only partially effective, althoughthere are many differences by country and SNS.One in five 9-12 year olds have a Facebook profile,rising to over 4 in 10 in some countries.The report also shows that:
Younger children are more likely than older tohave their profile ‘public’. A quarter of 9-12 yearold SNS users have their profile ‘set to public’.
Parental rules for SNS use, when applied, arepartly effective, especially for younger children.
A quarter of SNS users communicate onlinewith people unconnected to their daily lives,including one fifth of 9-12 year old SNS users.
One fifth of children whose profile is publicdisplay their address and/or phone number,twice as many as for those with private profiles.
The features designed to protect children fromother users if needed are not easily understood,by many younger and some older children.
Gender makes little difference
: although girls aretraditionally thought to communicate more thanboys, there are few gender differences – 60% ofgirls and 58% of boys have their own SNS profile.
Social networking varies greatly by country
: inNordic and some Eastern European countries,SNS use is higher than in Southern and middleEuropean countries. Differences among countriesare particularly striking for the younger age group.
To inform evidence-based policy, this reportexamines the social networking practices ofEuropean children.
The focus is on the users’ age,skills and privacy practices, together with the restrictivepractices of their parents.
Age trends by country
To interpret the ratio of younger versus older childrenusing SNS in each country, Figure 2 illustratescontrasting age patterns by country.
Figure 2: Patterns of SNS use by age and country
The UK is fairly typical of Europe: the likelihood ofa child using SNS ranges from 20% for nine yearolds and grows to around 90% for 16 year olds.
France also shows a steady increase in use fromyounger to older children, but SNS use is lower forthe youngest group and rises steeply with age.
The Netherlands is different: nine year old childrenare much more likely to have a SNS profile thanchildren in other countries; hence the flatter curve.How can these differences be explained? Is it a matterof cultural factors operating in specific countries suchas peer norms, parenting styles, familiarity with theinternet, practices of regulation or other variables? Or,is it a matter of the design and management of theparticular SNS that predominates in that country?In The Netherlands, for instance, Hyves is the mainSNS but, also, Dutch peer culture (or parenting) mayencourage young children to join in social networking.In this report, we point to country and/or SNS factorswhere appropriate, but we do not develop a deeperinterpretation of these possible country differences, atask that awaits our future
EU Kids Online 
The policy context: self-regulation
By combining chat, messaging, photo albums andblogging, SNS integrate online activities moreseamlessly than ever. This offers children manyopportunities, but possibly also more risks. To minimisethese, the European Commission’s
Safer Internet Programme 
facilitates self-regulation by the majorproviders. The resulting guidance,
for whichcompliance is evaluated by the EC,
recommends that:
Services should be age appropriate,
withmeasures in place to ensure that under-age usersare rejected and/or deleted from the service.
Privacy provisions should ensure
that profiles ofminors are set to ‘private’ by default, and that userscan control who can access their full profile and beable to view their privacy settings at all times.
SNS should encourage and enable users sothey can safely manage personal information
SNS services should provide an
easy-to-usemechanism for children to report
inappropriatecontent or conduct by other users.All of the top SNS identified in this report (see Table 1)except Hi5 have signed the
Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU 
European Commission (2009)
Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU 
. Luxembourg: European Commission.
Staksrud, E., & Lobe, B. (2010)
Evaluation of the Implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU Part I: General Report 
. Luxembourg: European Commission.
This includes giving the user control over their personal information(e.g. that used for initial registration or which is visible to others) sothey can make informed decisions about what they disclose online.
SNS differences: Facebook dominates
57% of European 9-16 year olds with an SNSprofile use Facebook as their only or most usedSNS
(see Table 1). It is the most popular SNS in17 of the 25 countries and second most popular inanother five countries.
Figure 3: Children's use of Facebook by country
QC315: Which social networking profile do you use? If you use morethan one, please name the one you use most often.Base: All children aged 9-16 with an SNS profile on the internet.
Facebook has a unique position
: no other SNSis dominant in more than one country. Despite thelack of data to compare over time, it seems clearthat children are moving to Facebook (Figure 3).
Across all internet using children in Europe,Facebook is used by one third of 9-16 year oldsand one fifth of 9-12 year olds (Table 2).
Table 1: Top SNS used by children in Europe
SNS % users in Europe Where mainly used
Facebook 57 Pan-EuropeanNasza-Klasa 8 PolandSchülerVZ 7 GermanyTuenti 5 SpainHyves 4 The NetherlandsHi5 2 RomaniaAll other SNS 16 VariousAll SNS 100QC315: Which social networking profile do you use? If you use morethan one, please name the one you use most often.Base: All children aged 9-16 with an SNS profile on the internet.
Young SNS users
Famously on the internet no-one knows if you are adog. Equally, no-one knows who is a child. This posesa regulatory challenge insofar as SNS guidancecentred on age restrictions relies heavily on the user’s
professed age 
. Evidence about SNS users’ actual agehas been scarce until examined by
EU Kids Online 
The survey shows that
38% of 9-12 year olds useSNS, as do 77% of 13-16 year olds
(as notedabove, in Figure 1). The pattern of SNS use bycountry varies considerably for the younger agegroup in particular, ranging from 70% of Dutchdown to 25% of French 9-12 year olds using SNS.Is this variation best explained by national/culturalfactors, or does it depend on the particular SNS thatpredominates in a particular country? Disentanglingthese two factors may be informed by analysingpractices of use. Hence, this report analyses findingsfor the most popular SNS in each country. Additionally,to distinguish between country versus SNS factors, forcountries where Facebook is the main SNS used wereport practices of use by country and for Facebookoverall (Table 2).

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