Reputation Survey: Online child safety - Web safety not clear

Although the public rates Facebook as the safest social networking site for children, new research reveals a worrying lack of understanding.

Despite the ongoing saga surrounding online safety, Facebook is considered the safest social networking website for children, new research shows.

Thirty-one per cent of the 3,000 respondents to PRWeek/OnePoll's latest survey cited Facebook as the safest site for under-18s. Twitter was second, chosen by eight per cent of respondents.

But this does not mean the furore over safety on Facebook is a storm in a teacup. Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents said they had no idea which social networking site was safest. This lack of knowledge suggests parents need more explanation about how to judge the safety of these sites.

The vast majority - 68 per cent - of respondents said responsibility for the online safety of children rested with parents or guardians. Just 20 per cent said responsibility for safety rested with the sites visited. And 81 per cent of respondents said parents and guardians should take responsibility for teaching children about online safety.

While 70 per cent of respondents said they were worried about the amount of information people could access about them online, 69 per cent admitted they did not read the terms and conditions of social networking sites before signing up.

Despite ongoing calls for Facebook to install a 'panic button' for users, only 56 per cent of respondents understood what it was. But only 32 per cent of respondents said Facebook was taking online security as seriously as it should. And worryingly, one quarter of respondents who had children aged under 13 - the minimum age required for joining Facebook - said their children had signed up to Facebook using a fake age.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

HOW I SEE IT

Paul Armstrong, Social media director, Kindred

I don't find the results all that surprising, although some figures are disheartening - specifically the knowledge about what a 'panic' button is and which sites are safe.

Safety, security and privacy are all controversial and no single button, procedure or set of guidelines will likely fix the problems causing the issues - at least not for very long. Often Facebook is branded as unsafe because of its size yet this is also incorrect. Sites half its size can be more dangerous - it's all down to the users and how they use the site.

The survey clearly shows the need for greater education of all parties involved. Recent sad events serve as a cold reminder that bad people exist and we all need to protect ourselves. This starts with knowing how and when to communicate sensibly. The survey seems to suggest this responsibility lies with the parents/guardian but the fact remains we users have to take responsibility for our actions and use the platforms we choose sensibly.

- Do you think that Facebook has strict enough security systems in place to protect users?

Yes: 24%

No: 44%

No idea: 32%

- Do you think that installing a panic button would improve security on Facebook?

Don't know: 21%

Yes: 56%

No: 23%

- education at home

81% said parents should take responsibility for teaching children about online safety

- Personal information

70% were worried about the amount of information people could access about them online

- Terms and conditions

69% admitted they did not read all the terms and conditions of social networking sites

- Panic buttons

56% did not understand what the term 'panic button' meant

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