Many teenagers are exposing themselves to safety and privacy risks through the use of social media apps, the Child Welfare League Foundation said on Monday as it released the results of a survey into young people’s use of friend-making apps.
The survey was conducted in December last year at 45 junior-high and high schools. It did not ask students about their use of Line, Facebook or Instagram.
It found that 37.7 percent of respondents have used friend-making apps and about one-third of those users spent an average of more than 30 minutes per day on those apps.
About 10.3 percent of the users said they did not conceal information about themselves when registering for apps, including their name, age and the online social groups they belonged to or their Line account, the foundation said.
Users were often faced with inappropriate requests from their cyberfriends, most of which involved efforts to establish relationships and dates, but some were asked to provide photographs of themselves scantily clad or to go to a hotel, the foundation said.
Among these app users, 18.8 percent have gone on dates with people they met through the apps and 69.4 percent said that their parents have no knowledge about their use of such apps, the survey found.
Friend-making apps allow teens and young people to easily get acquainted with strangers on the Internet, foundation executive secretary Huang Yun-hsuan (黃韻璇) said.
When relationships between young people and their families are poor, they might turn to friends they have made through the Internet for comfort and could be easily tempted by online friends to run away from home, she said.
According to runaway cases reported to the foundation over the past 10 years, 24 percent of the cases had Internet connections, Huang said.
The apps also have security flaws, the foundation said.
An analysis of the top 10 most downloaded apps and several other friend-making apps popular with teens found that seven said that only people 18 or older could use them, but six of them did not have an age-verification mechanism, the foundation said.
The government should improve the mechanism for monitoring the development and management of apps and raise their age requirements for users to ensure the safety of young people, it said.
The foundation’s survey received 1,889 valid samples and had a margin of error of 2.25 percentage points.
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