New research published today by security vendor ZoneAlarm, the Facebook Child Safety Report, analysed what 600 kids aged between 10 and 15 and located around the world were up to Facebook. The end result reveals those common behaviours that increase the exposure of children to bullying online, predatory threat and other security problems. The major factor, surprise surprise, that contributes to an increase risk late night usage.
Three activities revealed a positive link with increased risk: adding friends that could well be strangers, playing those Facebook games which require access to account information and, as mentioned, using Facebook late into the night. This latter activity results, according to the research at least, in children experiencing almost twice as many problems as those kids who are offline before midnight.
What's more, these Feral Facebook kids are four times more likely to have large networks of Facebook friends that consist mostly of people they have never actually met. Another of the risk factors identified by the ZoneAlarm report.
The fact that kids active on Facebook late into the night and beyond are exposing themselves to increased risk really comes as no surprise to me, or anyone with a modicum of common sense or understanding of parental responsibility I would have thought, given that such behaviour suggests there is a total lack of parental supervision being exercised. Especially when you consider that the report reveals many of these kids are still using Facebook after 3am. 60% of these feral Facebookers have experienced 'serious problems' such as cyberbullying, account hacking, and unwanted attention from strangers as a result.
As the report authors conclude "the findings of the survey demonstrate that kids behavior online does matter. And parents’ active role in monitoring their online activity can make a difference. While dangers to children have always existed, greater access to the web and social networks like Facebook has heightened their exposure. The bottom line is there will always be risks, but there is no substitute for taking the necessary steps to avoid them.
Be aware and talk to your child if they are on Facebook after midnight..."
The full report can be downloaded here as a PDF file.