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BizReport : Law & Regulation : February 10, 2009

European agreement signed to improve online safety of teens

Cyber-bullying is on the increase, with over half of teens experiencing it in some European countries, found a recent survey. With the aim of stamping out cyber-bullying, and improving the safety of social networking users aged 18 and under, 17 Internet companies have signed a European agreement.

by Helen Leggatt

safter internet day logo.jpgThe agreement was signed in Luxembourg during 'Safer Internet Day' (February 10), a program of events organized by the European Commission with the goal of "empowering teenagers to deal with potential risks they may face online, like cyber-bullying or revealing personal information".

According to a recent European Online Safety Survey, conducted by independent market research agency Cross Tab for Microsoft, 67% of European teenagers spend most of their online time using social networks. Over half are un-monitored or have very few restrictions imposed by their parents, and social networks are becoming a virtual playground for cyber-bullies.

Many of the teens surveyed had been subjected to cyber-bullying. In Norway, an incredible 50% of teens reported being bullied online, either by a group or an individual, 45% in Denmark and 29% in the U.K. The Internet has made bullying easier, said 56% of the 20,000 or so teens involved in the survey, and over a third believe many youngsters have little respect for other people's privacy online.

"Today's 'web generation' are increasingly living out their lives in the digital arena. The advent of social media has helped our children become sophisticated web users, but they still need help and guidance on how to tackle emerging issues such as online bullying," said John Mangelaars, vice president, consumer and online, Microsoft EMEA, reported The Telegraph in the U.K.. "The findings reveal worrying gaps in their internet education."

The agreement contains a number of measures that 17 Internet companies have committed to take, including "providing an easy to use 'report abuse button' [which will] allow users to report inappropriate contact from or conduct by another user" and "make sure that full online profile and contact lists of website users who are registered as under 18s are set to 'private' by default".

Participating companies include Facebook, MySpace, Google, Bebo, Microsoft and Yahoo as well as Arto, Dailymotion,, Hyves,, Netlog,, Skyrock, StudiVZ, Sulake/Habbo Hotel and

Tags: agreement, cyber-bullying, Europe, online bullying, Safer Internet Day, social networking, teens

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