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Poll: Porn-watching, net-savvy kids are a myth

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Parents who think their tearaway hacking kiddies are seeing all sorts of things they shouldn't online are buying into some of the top myths about children on the web, according to a new report.

EU Kids Online, a research project based at the London School of Economics and Political Science, talked to kids across Europe about their online habits and discovered that they are both more and less clued up than their parents reckon.

It's commonly thought that web savvy kids know everything about the net and are happily hacking FBI databases with one hand while circumnavigating parental security controls with the other.

However, only 36 per cent of children aged nine to 16 thought it was "very true" that they knew more about the internet than their folks. And fewer than one in three in the 11-to-16 age group said that they're able to get around safety software or change filter preferences.

Where children were most savvy was in getting online access. Many parents keep the home computer in the living room as a method of restricting usage, but kids are mostly able to get online at a friend's house or on a smartphone, so relying on looking over their shoulder isn't a good way to protect them.

"Parents are better advised to talk to their children about their internet habits or join them in some online activity," EU Kids Online said.

One fear guaranteed to give parents nightmares is the thought that their children might be in contact with strangers online, but the report also found that this was a myth.

While 38 per cent of kids between the ages of nine and 12 are creating social networking profiles - contrary to the rules of many sites of these sites - most kids only talk to people online who they know face-to-face. Nine per cent met someone offline whom they'd first met online and most of the children surveyed were savvy enough not to go alone. However, the study did show that one per cent of kids meeting an internet contact offline had a bad experience.

"Often the view of how children behave online is out of date and needs updating – that's why we included the list of top 10 myths in our report. For example, while parents worry more about 'stranger danger', children find cyberbullying the most upsetting risk," said Professor Sonia Livingstone, who led the project.

Kids were also finding that those who were doing the bullying, whether on or offline, had also been bullied themselves at some point. In fact, 60 per cent of bullies were also victims.

Despite the media scorn that suggests that's all adolescents ever want to do, children weren't watching porn all day either. The project found that one in seven children saw sexual images online in the last year, and even allowing for the fact that some wouldn't 'fess up, this is a smaller percentage than the numbers the shock-and-awe crowd typically bandy about.

EU Kids Online surveyed 25,000 children and their parents across Europe. ®

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