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Symantec Survey Reveals More Than 80 Percent of Children Using Email Receive Inappropriate Spam Daily

CUPERTINO, Calif. - June 9, 2003 - Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC), the world leader in Internet security, today announced that more than 80 percent of children surveyed who use email receive inappropriate spam on a daily basis. In addition, half of the kids surveyed reported feeling uncomfortable and offended when seeing improper email content. The survey, conducted online for Symantec by Applied Research, a full service market research firm, interviewed 1,000 youths between the ages of seven and 18. The survey measured young people's experience with spam as well as their concerns about receiving unsolicited email.

"As with any email user, kids are just as susceptible as adults to being bombarded by spam advertising inappropriate products and services, such as Viagra and pornographic materials," said Steve Cullen, Senior Vice President, Consumer and Client Product Delivery at Symantec. "Parents need to educate their children about the dangers of spam and how they can avoid being exposed to offensive content or becoming innocent victims of online fraud."

When asked what kind of spam emails they have received, 80 percent of the respondents said they are bombarded by sweepstakes messages such as "win a Playstation," 62 percent have received relationship-related spam such as "meet singles online," 61 percent have seen finance-related spam offering cut-rate mortgages or homes for sale, 55 percent have read weight-loss messages such as "lose 15 pounds in two days," 51 percent have received pharmaceutical sales pitches such as "buy herbal Viagra online," and 47 percent have received emails with links to X-rated Web sites. Most importantly, about one in every five kids (21 percent) open and read spam emails, especially the ones with a subject line that interest them (16 percent).

Kids Feel Uneasy about Spam

The survey also shows that youths feel uneasy when seeing inappropriate spam email content. Often times, they do not even communicate their negative feelings about spam with their parents. When asked what their reactions have been when they see improper email content, 51 percent of the respondents said that they have felt annoyed, 34 percent have felt uncomfortable, 23 percent have felt offended and 13 percent have felt curious. When they feel annoyed, uncomfortable, offended or curious after seeing unsuitable email content, 38 percent of the youths surveyed do not tell their parents.

Further evidence indicates that not every child has a clear understanding of spam. Although 89 percent of the kids surveyed responded that they have heard of spam, nearly one in three still do not know whether spam is good or bad for them. In addition, 22 percent of respondents said that their parents have never talked to them about spam.

Most Kids have Personal Email Accounts

The survey discloses that most of the youths surveyed have personal email accounts and more than half of these kids check email without their parents' guidance. The findings show that 76 percent of the kids studied have one or more email accounts. When asked how often they check emails, 72 percent of the respondents said a few times a week to a few times a day. When asked how important it is to always have mom or dad check emails with them, nearly one in three said it is not important, 21 percent said they don't care and 16 percent said they don't want their parents to check their emails with them. Furthermore, when asked whether they get parents' permission before giving out their personal email addresses to friends or even people and Web sites with which they are not familiar, 46 percent of the youths responded that they do not.

Higher Internet Usage during Summer

Results of the study also confirm that kids spend more time online during their summer vacation compared to during a regular school season. When asked the number of hours they use the Internet, 44 percent of youths said that they spend an average of more than two hours a day online on a summer day, compared to only 23 percent who said they spend as much time online on a school day. Of the youths who spend an average of more than two hours a day online during summer, 75 percent mainly use the Internet to send and receive emails.

Tips for Parents

Since kids will be spending more time online during their summer vacation, parents need to increase involvement and efforts in curtailing their children's exposure to spam emails. Responding to the research results, Symantec offers parents the following tips to help protect their children's online safety:

  1. Communicate with your children. It is important to speak truthfully with your kids about inappropriate Web content, such as pornographic spam emails. Encourage them to confide in you when they see improper text or graphics.
  2. Teach your children to never give out personal information while surfing on the Internet. Malicious e-marketers target kids for private information, such as their name, address, telephone number and family interests.
  3. Maintain trust with your children. Overprotecting your kids may convey you don't trust them. Make sure they understand your intentions for watching over them so they are willing to discuss spam issues openly with you.
  4. Know your children's friends. Even if you restrict your children's Internet or email access at home, they can still log on from places where you can't keep tabs on them. Talk to the parents of your children's friends and work with them together to provide a safe surfing environment for youngsters.
  5. Check emails with your children. In addition, install spam-filtering software, such as Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2003, which includes Norton Spam Alert, a new feature that detects and filters spam messages, to protect your children from receiving offensive spam emails.
About Symantec

Symantec is the world leader in providing solutions to help individuals and enterprises assure the security, availability, and integrity of their information. Headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., Symantec has operations in more than 40 countries. More information is available at

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