Children in China are far more likely to be exposed to online dangers than their foreign peers, a recent research report says.
According to data released by US security software maker Symantec Corp, about half the children between eight and 17 in China said they received inappropriate material via the Internet, the highest among respondents from eight countries which include the United States, France, Japan and Brazil.
In the survey of over 4,600 online adults and 2,700 online children, 44 percent of children in China said they had been approached online by strangers.
And 41 percent of the children have talked to an online stranger about sex or something that made them feel uncomfortable.
The comparable figures in the US are 16 percent and 4 percent.
Liu Bin, Internet research director of China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), attributed the findings partly to the large numbers who go online mostly at Internet cafes rather than at home.
"I don't think China's Internet environment is worse than in other countries," he says. "But the lack of proper protection systems, especially in Internet cafes in rural areas, does increase the chances of children being exposed to danger on the Internet."
The research also found that most Chinese parents underestimate the potential harm that children face online.
"Although China's Internet industry has been growing rapidly during the past several years, few parents know the appropriate means such as parental control software," said George Huang, sales director of Symantec's consumer products and solutions in China.
China has one of the world's largest and fastest growing Internet populations. Last year, the number of users grew 53.3 percent to 210 million, according to CNNIC.
The government-backed institution predicts the number to surpass 280 million by the end of this year, helping China overtake the US to have the world's largest Internet population.
But with nearly 20 percent of users under 18 years, the government is concerned that they are exposed to online danger, and violent or pornographic content.
Earlier last month, the government cracked down on the Internet distribution of hundreds of photos of Edison Chen, a popular Hong Kong actor who was involved in a sex-photo scandal with some Hong Kong actresses, singers and models.