Children exposed to Web risks

Underage Greek web-surfers are at risk from credit-card swindlers or pedophiles as a result of most parents’ lack of familiarity with the Internet and the absence of official Net-watching bodies to handle complaints regarding improper use of the Web, according to a consumer watchdog. Tania Kyriakidi, chairwoman of the Hellenic Consumer Organization (EKATO), told Kathimerini that although there are no known cases in Greece of children being molested by strangers they met in Internet chat-rooms, this is mainly due to good luck and high charges for Internet use. «Greece is waiting for the first serious incident to occur before any action is taken,» Kyriakidi said, adding that only one in four Greek children have access to the World Wide Web. «The fact that we do not have cheap Internet services has protected us so far,» she said. A survey carried out by EKATO two months ago found that a large portion of the 2,000 12-to-17-year-olds interviewed admitted visiting pornographic websites, being influenced by Net advertising and communicating with strangers in Internet chat-rooms. In many cases, the children said they had met up with people they first encountered in chat-rooms. A previous EKATO survey had established that 50 percent of parents know less about the Internet than their offspring, 60 percent have considered using a video camera to monitor their children’s surfing habits and 95 percent thought the government should adopt stricter legislation to protect children using the Internet. Kyriakidi noted that although the government has stated its intention to install Internet-linked computers in Greek schools, teachers are about as powerless to keep an eye on their pupils as parents are.

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