Children on the internet: are they safe?
Children on the internet: are they safe?Israel news photo: Flash 90

Research by the Eshnav organization shows that a majority of internet sites aimed at children gather private information about the children without their parents’ permission.

The study was carried out by the members of the Eshnav management – Attorneys Yonatan Klinger and Shuki Peleg – and by organization volunteers. It surveyed 32 of the leading Israeli children’s internet sites, and found that 60 percent gather information on the children without their parents’ knowledge or specific consent.

The researchers found that among popular internet sites that were registered and designated as children's sites, 73 percent required the child’s address and 60 percent asked for the child’s date of birth. Fifteen percent also asked children to enter their home address.

The researchers evaluated the privacy policies of the children’s internet sites and found that some acknowledged that they transferred their data to different sources with whom they had business agreements. Other sites did not specify what they did with the information collected on the children who visited their site or on their web-surfing habits.

The full report is to be found on the Eshnav web site, in the Hebrew language.

In the gray

Klinger noted that, “The negligence with which internet sites confirm parental consent before gathering or using private information on children, is in the gray area of the law [in Israel].

“In the United States there is a specific law that forbids gathering any information on children; indeed, Israel has yet to create a law such as this. Having said that, here it is still required to get the permission of the parents in order to use the information. However, many internet sites chose to use the ideas taken from the information anyway, and not to inform parents about their use of the data gathered from their children,” he added.

Ethics charter

Baruch Hinoch, head of the organization, said: “In the wake of these findings Eshnav is formulating an ethics charter to set clear norms regarding what should be forbidden; what should be allowed; the necessity of verifying parental consent, and underscoring the need to strengthen the bond between parents and children. The findings of our research showed there is room to increase education and awareness about the correct use of the internet.”

The Eshnav organization was established in memory of the late Eran Aderet, who took his own life in 1997 after he expressed a desire to commit suicide on an internet forum. Forum members actually encouraged him, and even provided him with instructions.

Since its establishment, Eshnav – an acronym for “Anashim L’Shimush Nachon B’Reshet” (People for Proper Use of the Internet) -- organizes education and training projects and promotes the wise use of the Internet. Since its inception, the group has trained thousands of parents at their places of employment and taught them how to connect with their children who are surfing the Net. At at the same time, soldiers work as volunteers in schools to guide students on how to safely surf the Net.