Ofcom has raised fresh questions about Facebook and other social networking sites, after finding that a quarter of underaged children have registered with the sites, up 15 per cent from the previous year.
The annual UK Children's Media Literacy report released yesterday said that the minimum age for registering with social networking sites is 13, but that one in five children aged eight to 12 had a Facebook account. The figure dropped to 11 per cent on Bebo and four per cent on MySpace.
"Among those users aged eight to 12 with a page or profile on either Facebook, Bebo or MySpace, 11 per cent say they have set their profile to be visible by anyone," the report said.
"Ninety-three per cent of parents who are aware that their child visits social networking sites say that they check what their child is doing. However, 17 per cent of parents of these children are not aware that their child visits social networking sites."
The news will be a blow to Facebook, which was recently forced to defend unfounded allegations by The Daily Mail that the site is being used by paedophiles to contact young children.
Facebook was then embroiled in a public stand-off with home secretary Alan Johnson over whether the site should place a Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre panic button on its main pages.
The company refused, although it did agree to install such a mechanism in its Safety Centre section.
The issue of child safety on social networking sites was brought to the fore recently after the case of murdered teenager Ashleigh Hall, who was contacted by her killer via Facebook.
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