Think before you post as once you do it is online forever. That was the message on Safer Internet Day marked on 9 February by a seminar in the European Parliament. With half of Europe's teenagers putting personal information on social media sites the importance of protecting them from cyber bullying and from posting material they may live to regret were discussed.
At the meeting, social scientist Michel Walrave of Antwerp University said harassment, blackmail and bullying were just three risks users faced. He said that half of all Polish teenagers who use such networks had been victims of either misuse of the information they posted or some kind of cyber bullying.
Online information - who has access?
In addition, he said, many people are unaware of how accessible material posted online is - to future employers, friends and acquaintances of friends, teachers and parents.
It is now estimated that three out of four young people use social networking sites. Grainne Walsh of the Irish Awareness Centre said Ireland's “Post once, online forever” campaign had tried to draw attention to the need to think twice about using such media.
Teenagers ignore safety rules
Speaking at the event, organised by the European Commission, Deborah Elahouf of the French Awareness Centre said, “most teenagers know e-security rules, but do not really apply them”.
In February last year the European Commission set up a “Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU” signed by 20 social networking companies running major sites in Europe such as Facebook and MySpace.
In 2008 the European Parliament suggested EU governments work on strengthening internet security in relation to personal data and respect for private and family life.