Half of all children who surf the internet have had an "unwanted experience" online. That's what the National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says after conducting a survey of 2,053 web surfing children.
The NSPCC says that over half of 11- to 16-year-old kids visit social networking sites at least once every day. This is despite fears that children put themselves at risk when they interact with people they don't know over the internet.
"Children face real threats on the internet such as sexual grooming, cyber-bullying, exposure to violent, pornographic and other unsuitable material, and being lured into dangerous real-world situations," said NSPCC director and chief executive Dame Mary Marsh.
"Online social networking is part of millions of children's lives. We must recognise and respond to this reality by helping them be safer online as well as helping them speak out about abuse at the same time."
Don't hide it
As a result, the NSPCC's 'Don't Hide It' campaign will this year encourage children to speak out on all forms of abuse. It will feature on a number of social networking and online sites from today, including Habbo , Bebo , MyKindaPlace , Piczo , MSN and AOL Teens .
One young girl, responding to last year's Don't Hide It campaign with a posting on the Bebo site, said she was misled and raped by a man she met online.
"He wasn't my friend at all," she said. "He didn't care about me - just wanted one thing and didn't care that it left me going to my doctor's alone to make an emergency appointment for the Pill. I felt so dirty, like it was my fault..."
In respect of the dangers that social networking sites can pose to Children, Disney is to launch a social networking website designed especially for pre-teens. The MySpace-style web 2.0 site will be tailored for kids, with beefy security to keep them all safe.
Disney Xtreme Digital (Disney XD) will give parents strict control over what their kids can and cannot do on the site. For instance, parents will have the final say over whether their children are able to chat to other kids on the site. There are also measures in place to filter out swear words and to prevent kids from revealing personal details about themselves.