Internet safety advocate Robyn Treyvaud said when she asks a class of year 4 students if they are on Facebook, most put up their hands. Peer group pressure is forcing increasing numbers of primary school-aged children to sign up to the popular social media site without the knowledge of their parents. “Parents will spend a fortune teaching their children to swim or drive but not any energy, money or emotional effort to teach their kids to stay safe online.” Mosman Public School principal Kate Cooper has warned parents in her newsletter about children signing up for Facebook. trawling cyberspace”. “Evidence shows the greatest harm comes from their peer group, not the dodgy online stranger or predator.”

The international Norton Online Living report found that 62 per cent of children aged eight to 17 have had a negative experience online, such as accessing inappropriate content, cyber bullying, giving out personal information and importing computer viruses. “We make assumptions that because the kids are tech-savvy and know how to sign up to Facebook accounts without mum and dad knowing about it, they can do all the navigation of the technology, but they are not equipped to navigate the sorts of negative experiences they have when they go online. Police school-liaison officers in the Hunter have been invited to schools after incidents involving children on social networking sites. One involved a year 3 student defaming a teacher. Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said children using social media was “one of the great unaddressed public health issues of our time”. He said children “do not really understand there are paedophiles… Senior Constable Michael Steele told The Newcastle Herald a 10-year-old boy told him he had been chatting online with a man in Queensland. Ms Cooper wrote that some parents were

“unaware that children must be over 13 years of age to sign up… Ms Treyvaud, who advises schools on cyber safety, said the children are naive about the impact of sharing personal information online and are influenced by hearing older children talking about Facebook. “Kids who are 10 don’t want to be 10 online. POLICE and teachers are warning parents that children as young as eight are at risk from cyber bullies and online predators because they are flouting Facebook website age restrictions. Whilst this is not strictly a school matter, we are very concerned about internet safety”. Childhood experts said these children have to lie about their age because users have to be over 13 to create a Facebook account. They want to be the cool 18-year-old and the reality is they can be,” Ms Treyvaud said.