Children unaware of online risks: Microsoft

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

About 83 per cent of Canadian households have a computer and one-third have at least two computers. Such is life in the internet age. That's what makes figures from a new study of children's online safety habits by Microsoft Canada and Ipsos Reid so disturbing.

According to the study, among children between the ages of 10 and 14:

  • 70 per cent think information they post online and e-mail to friends is private
  • 37 per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys have e-mailed their photo to someone
  • 25 per cent would feel comfortable meeting in-person someone they have only communicated with online
  • 17 per cent say they have used the internet in the middle of the night
  • 15 per cent visit sites their parents say are off-limits
  • 11 per cent have been asked online by a stranger for personal information such as their name, address or phone number.

Microsoft offers internet safety tips on its website and is sponsoring a series of safety advisory talks by the former head of the Toronto Police child porn unit Paul Gillespie.

Microsoft often receives criticism for being a high-tech evil empire but its social and community work is often overlooked. Microsoft Canada in particular has been a leader in fighting child porn and much of the success police have recently had in fighting online child predators is attributable to the specialized software Microsoft developed.

If you're interested in finding out more about the safety tour or other tips for kids and parents, visit www.microsoft.com/canada/onlinesafety.

The study is available at Ipsos Reid but a subscription is required.