More than half of children are leaving themselves wide open to predators on social media by failing to set their profiles to ‘private’.

New figures released by e-safety group Internet Matters to mark Safer Internet Day (February 9) reveal how only 47% of kids have taken action to ensure they are not left vulnerable to being contacted by strangers online and cyberbullying outside of their circle of friends.

The research also reveals how 18% of kids have given out personal information online like full name, home address or phone number.

And six per cent of the children surveyed – aged between seven and 17 – admit they meet up in real life with someone they’ve met online.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters, urged parents to find out which social media channels their kids are using and make sure their privacy settings are switched on.

She said: “Our research shows that while children acknowledge the internet can be a risky place, still too many of them are not protected when they are using social media, with more than half of children not setting their profiles to private.

“Many of the apps and websites automatically set users’ profiles to public, so it is important that parents find out which are the riskier social networks, whether their children are using them, and check whether their profiles are public or private.

It’s also important to talk to children about the wider potential risks, from posting images of themselves online to giving out personal information.

“Only 7% of children aged between seven and 17 strongly agreed and 24% agreed that the internet is a safe place for them to be, compared to 39% disagreeing and 17% strongly disagreeing.

While children use, on average, five different websites and apps to communicate with friends, only 47% say they set their profiles on social networks private, not public so only their friends can see it.

Only 22% said they would always report people or things they are not comfortable with on social networks, 30% said they sometimes would and 31% said they never would.

18% of children said they always, mostly or sometimes gave out personal information like their full name, home address, phone number.

6% of children said they always or mostly arrange to meet up with people in real life that they’ve met online, 7% said they sometimes would, while 72% said they never would.

Safer Internet Day calls upon young people, parents, teachers, companies, policymakers, social workers, law enforcers and others to help create a better internet.

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