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GRA survey sheds light on teenage use of social media in Gibraltar

File photo dated 03/01/18 of social media app icons. Headteachers are calling for new social media laws to keep children safe, amid concerns that youngsters' use of these sites is harming their mental health. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday March 9, 2018. According to a small-scale poll by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) most school leaders have received reports of pupils being bullied or being exposed to unsuitable material - such as sexual content or hate speech, with some saying this is happening on a daily or weekly basis. See PA story EDUCATION SocialMedia. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Nearly nine out of every 10 teenagers who participated in a survey on their use of social media admitted to sharing information about others without their permission, even while taking steps to protect their own privacy online.

The survey by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority sampled the views of 1,038 students in local schools and found that 86% had revealed information about their peers without their consent.

The GRA survey also found that 99% of children in Year 7 – who are aged between 11 and 12 – acknowledged using social media sites, an increase of 7% despite the fact that most sites require users to be at least 16 years old.

The GRA also warned that the emergence of online console gaming apps poses potential risks to the younger user because it “provides new challenges from a data protection perspective”.

The past year has seen a “slight improvement” in the use of privacy controls, the survey found, with more students using security features such as a PIN code or facial recognition to control access to their devices.

The results from the annual privacy awareness survey were published yesterday.

The survey examined the relationship between the use of new digital technology, social networking sites and privacy matters and forms part of an awareness-raising programme for schools.

A total of 1038 students took part in the survey, including 538 boys and 500 girls between the ages of 11 and 16.

The key findings from the survey revealed virtually all students use social networking sites and that daily use for private messaging increases with age.

There has been a decrease in the use of Year 11 students posting comments and the survey has revealed that there has also been a drop in the number of students posting photos and videos on a daily basis.

Year 11 students use privacy controls the most, however privacy controls for Year 7 students dropped by 11% from last year.

There is a continued risk to privacy from “media rich” social networking sites such as WhatsApp, the GRA said, which continues to be popular with 91% of students using the messaging service.

The GRA said this year’s survey has shown some “positive developments” such as the everyday use of social networking sites has significantly dropped among Year 11 students, as well as fewer students posting videos and photo on a daily basis.

“The continuous and increasing use of social networking sites demands that continuous efforts are made in relation to raising privacy awareness to help the younger generations better understand the importance of controlling their privacy,” a statement from the GRA read.

“The Commissioner’s office welcomes the slight improvements in privacy practices, however, it is appropriate and necessary to continue monitoring these user habits and endeavour to promote the safe use of social networking sites and mobile devices.”

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