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Safer Internet Day 2009

Safer Internet Day 2009 takes place today (February 10) across Europe with organisers hoping to raise awareness of the threats posed to teenagers using social networking websites.

The event, taking place across all EU states, has this year placed a heavy focus on the dangers of using social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace or Bebo as well encouraging parents to closely monitor the online habits of their children.

Around 256m users have accounts with Facebook and MySpace combined, which allow users to connect with friends and relatives online, share photographs and personal details.

There are however concerns that many users of such sites may be unaware as to the risks posed by using such sites. The Safer Internet Day 2009 campaign has highlighted the case of American teenager Megan Meier, who committed suicide in 2006 following a series of abusive messages sent to her from a fake user account on MySpace

The campaign coincides with a report by MSN which revealed that 51% of 14-19 year-olds in Europe enjoy unrestricted access to the internet at home, free from any form of supervision or content filtering software

British parents were the most likely, 77%, to use filtering software whilst 87% regularly talk to their children about what they do online.

The MSN research also found that 29% of the teenagers it quizzed have suffered bullying while using the web. That finding supports the findings of a report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force released in December 2008 that claimed that “Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.”

To mark the day, 17 social networking services have pledged to do more to prevent online bullying on their networks; these include Google / YouTube, Yahoo Europe, Microsoft Europe, Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. It is thought that this will see a number of measures introduced in the near future, such as a “report abuse” function.

For more information on Safer Internet Day, visit http://www.saferinternet.org.

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