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Kids access porn, flirt online at young ages

SEATTLE – Kids start watching porn from as early as the age of 6 and begin flirting on the Internet from the age of 8, according to a survey of more than 19,000 parents worldwide.

What’s more, children are accessing instant messaging and computer games at a much younger age than just a few years ago.

At the extreme, 3.45 percent of children covered in the analysis used Instant Messaging to chat with friends, while 2 percent of computer-game addicts were just 5 years old.

The study results were released exclusively to CyberTruth by Bitdefender.

The Bucharest-based antivirus vendor correlated results of an online survey of parents with data compiled from its parental-control services, such as which sites parents choose to block, and which sites children access regularly.

Almost a quarter of the kids accounted for in the study had at least one social-network account at age 12, while 17 percent were social-media users at 10.

Bitdefender found that children lie about their age when creating social-network profiles, especially on Facebook, where they are supposed to be least 13.

“Kids nowadays are acting like young adults online – just give them an Internet-connected device, and they will find a way to things parents would like to ban forever,” says Bitdefender Chief Security Strategist Catalin Cosoi.

Almost a quarter of the children accounted for in the study had at least one social-network account at age 12, while 17 percent were social-media users at 10.

The survey found that gaming, hacking and so-called “hate” websites, where youngsters are free to use profanity and express disdain, are hot destinations for kids and teens.

“Kids lie about their age to get access to something they want to explore, in this case a social network,” says Jo Webber, CEO of Virtual Piggy, a website that enables children to manage and spend money within a parent-controlled environment. “It’s no different than my generation lying about age to get cigarettes or into a bar.”

Webber points out that this generation of children were born into an Internet-centric society.

“The Internet is a huge system that houses good and bad,” Webber says. “Parents need to stay involved with their children and be ready to explain things that their children may stumble upon.”

Child-safety experts call for parents to educate their offspring about how dangerous giving out personal information can be, and enforce usage rules.

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