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Parents haven't a clue what their kids get up to online. That's just one of the findings of a report out today by the London School of Economics which reveals a gulf between what children do online - and what parents think their children get up to.

Of course, any parent knows they will never really know what their children get up to - either online or offline. Nonetheless, the research found that parents need to be more "Web wise" about their kids' activities online.

For instance, the research found that 57 per cent of children aged nine to 19 have come into contact with pornography online. Yet, only 16 per cent of parents were aware that their children had seen porn online.

Equally, a third of young people admitted that had received "unwanted sexual or nasty comments", while only one in 20 parents were aware of this.

Concerned at this gap in knowledge, Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at LSE, said parents "need to be more aware of the risks their children are facing. However, simply restricting children's Internet access would deny them many of the benefits."

John Carr, Internet Adviser to the children’s charity NCH, and who also worked on the UK Children Go Online survey, said: "The gap between what children are actually doing and what their parents think they are doing is a lot larger than many people would have imagined. It is a gap we must try to close."

Last month, research from London University's Institute of Education found that parental fears about the Internet mean that children are not being given the information they need to behave safely and sensibly online.

Unfounded fears that children are meeting murderers online and that chatrooms lead to sexual abuse mean that real and more frequent dangers of Web use are ignored, leaving children unprepared and unable to protect themselves, it said. ®

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