FILE PHOTO: Stickers bearing the Facebook logo are pictured at Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose. Picture: Reuters

San Francisco - Young people are "very safe" using Facebook, one of the company’s top executives has told the Daily Mail.

Social networking sites have been dogged by grooming and cyberbullying scandals, and parents are increasingly concerned about their children’s safety online.

It is thought 600 000 under-13s – who are not allowed to have a profile on Facebook or Instagram – regularly log on to the sites.

But Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, insisted that effective measures were already in place to protect users. She said: "Young people absolutely can go on Facebook or Instagram and have a very safe experience. We do have the rules in place. We do have the enforcement in place."

But Bickert, who has two teenage daughters, said parents also had a role to play. "When my daughters turned 13, I did not just say, 'okay, go online'," she said.

"We had a conversation about what kind of experience they want to have online and how they can be sure they are having that experience. People have to make sure they are taking advantage of privacy settings and other tools. That is an important part of being an online citizen."

But children’s charity the NSPCC described Bickert’s comments as "a sad reflection of the company’s refusal to acknowledge the dangers".

A spokesperson said: "These social networks are not safe for our children. It’s vital that an independent regulator is introduced."

Campaigners have warned that many children are using Facebook or Instagram, and that some parents are unaware of the age restrictions for social networking sites. 

Last year research group eMarketer claimed 600 000 children aged 12 or under logged onto Facebook at least once a month, and in 2017 Ofcom said half of 11- and 12-year-olds had a social media profile.

Earlier this year, Instagram, owned by Facebook, came under fire after schoolgirl Molly Russell, 14, took her own life after trawling through self-harm images on the platform. Her father, Ian, claimed the app was partly responsible for her death.

Daily Mail