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GRA survey highlights youngsters use of social media

The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority said virtually all local students aged over 11 use social networking sites, disregarding age restrictions on websites “not designed for their age group”.

However, the annual survey found there was a 13% drop in the use of social networks by Year 7 students compared to last year.

The GRA say this is an improvement, but maintains that the current figure of 84% is still very high.

The authority’s main concern is the disregard of 13 and over age restrictions imposed by the networking sites such as WhatsApp, Skype and Snapchat, adding that many students hardly ever use appropriate privacy controls.

Students aged between 11 and 18 were surveyed. Of the 833 students, there were 541 boys and 292 girls. All middle schools and comprehensive schools were surveyed as well as Loreto Convent and the Gibraltar College.

“The purpose of the survey was to obtain an understanding on the extent of use of social networking sites,” the GRA report read.

“The survey served to learn about the habits of these students with regards to SNS, in particular, which SNS are being used, the reasons and frequency of use, and the extent to which available privacy controls are being used. Finally, the survey also enabled the [Data Protection] Commissioner to establish the extent to which the students using mobile devices, use available security, namely password or PIN.”

School presentations conducted by the GRA focused on protecting data online when using networking sites and highlighting the risk of losing privacy control “could prove costly in the future”.

In total 96% of students use at least one networking site and almost three quarters use them daily. Of this 27% never use privacy controls and 13% hardly ever use them.

The GRA have noted that the majority of students use privacy controls and are now targeting those who do not.

“Given the results, the Commissioner welcomes the increased focus by Year 7 Students and Year 9 students towards their privacy as shown in the results,” the report read.

“However, overall, some worrying results remain, particularly in relation to the overall increase in Year 11 Students and older College students failing to use privacy controls. The Commissioner believes that it is appropriate and necessary to continue monitoring the user habits of new technologies including SNS amongst children and promoting the safe use of SNS.”

Older College students were found to be the least secure online with just over half surveyed never using privacy controls or automatic phone locking.

These students are also those who use networking sites the most.