Social networking groups should do more to prevent underage users from accessing them, warns an IT security company.


Garlik, which specialises in online identity issues, found that Facebook, MySpace and Bebo might have as many as 750,000 underage users between them. The minimum age limit is 13 for Facebook and Bebo. The limit for MySpace is 14. But Garlik's questioning of 1,000 children showed that eight to 12-year-olds used the sites regularly. The breach puts youngsters at risk of making unsavoury connections with strangers.


Also, concerned parents are snooping on their children in an attempt to see what sites their offspring are visiting. Garlik's poll of 1,000 parents revealed that 72 per cent tried to monitor their children with 26 per cent setting up a social networking page so that they could keep an eye on their children.


Disturbingly, nearly one in four children aged eight to 15 had strangers as ‘friends' on their pages and one in five said they had met strangers from the sites face-to-face. Two-thirds posted their mobile number and details of their school.


Garlik chief executive, Tom Ilube, has called for the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo to police their age restrictions to avoid breaches. So far, social networking sites are expected to self-regulate. Ilube wants to see age limit warnings, which are usually listed in terms and conditions, made more prominent when people are signing up.