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Teenagers use of Internet may point to security gap, group says

2010/03/14 18:50:38

Taipei, March 14 (CNA) The main motivation driving Taiwan'steenagers to use the Internet is to make "cyber friends" rather thanto play online games, a recent survey has found, leading to possibleconcerns for their safety.

"Teenagers think it is challenging to make cyber friends, " butwhile they have some idea that a risk exists, they are not fullycognizant of what it entails and how to deal with it, said VivianHuang, the head of the "Cyber Angel's Pick" association, whichconducted the survey as part of its annual report on teenagerInternet safety.

The survey, targeted at Taiwanese students attending grades 3-7,found that 26.7 percent of the respondents said making friends onlinewas the main reason they surfed the Internet, while 25.1 percent saidplaying online games was the main attraction.

The findings were a reversal of the results found in a similarsurvey a year earlier, in which playing online games was cited moreoften than making friends as the main motivation by a 30.1 percent to22 percent margin, Huang said.

Other troubling indicators were discovered by her Internet safetygroup.

When the children were asked in the 2009 survey whether or notthey knew that Taiwan began to implement an Internet content ratingsystem on Oct. 25, 2005, 69.7 percent of those surveyed said they didnot know, she added.

Also disconcerting, Huang said, is that 28.5 percent of thechildren surveyed did not think their parents could show them how touse the Internet in a correct way.

Though more and more parents are using computers and otherhigh-tech communication devices, they were found mostly unable toguide their children to surf on the Internet safely, she said.

At the same time, schools are also not providing sufficienttraining to enable students to protect themselves on the Internet,argued Huang, a professor in National Chengchi University'sDepartment of Radio and Television and an expert on digital media.

The professor suggested that the government establish a cybersafety inspector system similar to that adopted by the Australiangovernment, as part of efforts to secure Internet safety for Taiwan'syouth.

Cyber Angel's Pick will also begin operating in late March acyber safety hotline, which will answer people's questions aboutonline security and risks.

Aside from focusing on safety issues, the survey also tried toget a broader picture of how Taiwanese youth in grade 3-7 use theInternet.

It found that the respondents spend an average of 3.04 hourssurfing the Internet on weekend days or holidays, twice the time theyspend online on school days, when they spend an average of 1.34 hoursonline.

Some 34.5 percent of the polled students surfed the Internet onlyon weekends and holidays, while 19.4 percent went online every day,and 15.3 percent used online services once or twice a week, thesurvey found.

The survey was based on 6,457 valid questionnaires received fromstudents attending grades 3-7 in 109 elementary and junior highschools around the country.

(By Chen Li-ting and Elizabeth Hsu)