Children regularly circumvent age verification systems on social networks such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, according to a new survey of young people's online activities in the UK.
It's not the first survey to come to the same conclusion - OFCOM, the UK government quango charged with regulating the telco and broadcasting industry, published similar results earlier this year. It's also not surprising since all that most social networking sites require to verify your age is to tick the appropriate check box.
However, a second parallel survey carried out by the same company - online "identity experts" Garlik - reveals how net savvy parents are responding through monitoring their child's underage social networking activities by spying on their accounts.
Of the 1,000 parents polled, 72% said they snooped on their kids online. One in four (25%) secretly log into their child's social networking account. While a quarter (25%) have set up their own social networking profile in order to monitor their child's own profile.
Tom Ilube, chief executive of Garlik, said: "The fact that parents feel compelled to monitor their children on this scale should send a powerful message to the big social networking sites. With three quarters of a million underage users in the UK, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo need to take their own age restriction policies far more seriously to help allay parents' real fears."
Users of Facebook and Bebo are required to be over the age of thirteen, while Myspace's minimum age is fourteen.
Ilube's message is one echoed by the UK government who are expected to publish voluntary guidelines for providers of social networks in which better age verification procedures are thought to be on the list. How this might be enforced, however, is anybody's guess.
A few other interesting tidbits from Garlik's survey: British children spend an average of one hour a day on social networking sites, and over a quarter (26%) of 8-15 year olds admit they have befriended strangers on their social networking profile, and a fifth (20%) have met up offline with people they've first encountered online.