A new survey shows that 87 per cent of parents think it is too easy for children to access inappropriate content on the web. And over a third of children admit they have removed their browsing history at some point to ensure their parents can’t see what they’ve been looking at online and have visited a website they know their parents wouldn’t approve of.
With many children either owning their own tablets, games consoles and laptops or borrowing their parents or older sibling’s devices such statistics will concern modern-day parents.
The Internet and social media are great for empowering both adults and children, but parents should not think that kids online are safe just because they’re using a tablet.
Unless set up with strong parental controls children on iPads, iPhones or Android devices can easily navigate to the strongest bad stuff on the world wide web, and also connect with anyone on social-networking sites.
The UK survey, sponsored by educational tech company Leapfrog, polled 1,300 British parents and 900 children aged five to nine from a nationally representative sample.
The survey found that:
• 56 per cent of children aged five to nine admit to sharing key personal information on a public social network profile
• 33 per cent of kids have removed their browsing history at some point to ensure their parents do not see what they’ve been looking at online
• 31 per cent of kids confess they have accessed a website they know their parents would not approve of
• 33 per cent of parents admit they have no parental controls on internet-enabled devices their children use
• 75 per cent of parents do not monitor their child when they are online
• 23 per cent of parents have had to fork out over £100 after receiving an unexpected bill as a result of their child downloading an app without permission
Leapfrog has created ‘A Guide For Parents On Technology & Kids’ that’s free to download. It includes tips and advice about internet safety from Stuart Miles, editor of Pocket-Lint, and Dr Jody Sherman LeVos, head of the LeapFrog Learning Team. See also: Best tablets for kids.
Leapfrog is obviously keen to point out the child-friendly nature of its kids’ tablets the LeapPad3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi, but there’s plenty of good advice in the free guide.
Parents tips for Internet safety
Dr LeVos recommends that parents should consider:
WHAT – what games, apps, websites, etc. are appropriate for your child? Communicate approved content and establish rules for who has final say in assessing the appropriateness of new content. Games should offer a personalised learning experience for the child, such as games that automatically level up or down according to your child’s unique learning needs. Games should teaches new concepts, rather than games that simply quiz your child. And games should be developmentally appropriate for your child in terms of both curriculum and play patterns.
HOW – how should children engage with technology? Although many games are designed to be used by children independently, consider allocating at least some of your child’s media time as co-play or co-viewing experiences. Sit with your child, ask him or her questions about what he or she’s doing or seeing, and prompt them to relate the lessons to their real life
WHERE – where in the home is engagement with technology ok? For some families, technology use only occurs in shared spaces, such as a kitchen or family room, where children are less likely to access inappropriate content
WHEN – when is it ok to use technology and how much is appropriate? Consider setting limits to technology, such as two hours per day, as well as times that are off-limits, such the one- or two-hour window before bedtime. There is evidence to suggest that light from the screen, nature of the content, or both, may impact the quality of sleep
In the guide journalist Miles offers more tips to help parents get the most of our technology with their kids.
Age-limit games and apps: “Video games aren't just for kids, nor are movies, nor are all apps. Make sure you are aware of the age rating of the content your kids are playing and that it appropriate for them. If you are worried, you can block certain age rated content showing up in the relevant app store, and in most cases block it from showing on the device altogether even though you've bought it previously,” advises Miles.
Set up a guest account: “If you can't stretch to a separate machine look at guest login features. Most of the major operating systems have them (aside from iOS), and it silos your data and lets them use apps you've set aside just for them.
Disable in-app purchases or turn on Family Sharing: “The app might be free, but you'll soon find after 10 minutes of playing there are way too many ways in which you are encouraged to buy more gems, or coins, or building materials for real cash. To make sure you aren't hit with a big bill either turn off in-app purchases altogether or if you are using the iPad or iPhone turn on Family Sharing so you are alerted that your child is about to buy something.”
Social networking: “Protecting your children isn't just about you not letting them go on the tablet all the time, it is about how you act as well. Be aware of the information you are sharing online and who you are sharing it with. A good routine to get into is to do quarterly checks on what your settings are on social networks, what apps have access, and who you are friends with. You'll be amazed the first time you do it just how far your information is being shared. Does your old uni friend you've not spoken to in 10 years really need to see pictures of your kids?”
Talk to your kids about Internet safety: “You talk to your children about not talking to strangers, so talk to them about doing the same online, and using the internet or technology safely. Making them apart of the conservation will also help them understand what you are trying to do rather than just telling them they can't have your phone today. “
Contact your broadband provider: “Look at whether your broadband provider offers protection as many offer a protection feature that you can turn on that automatically blacklists a number of sites without you having to worry. You can then also whitelist certain sites you deem acceptable.”
Set passwords for any device that can access the internet: “Any device you own should have a password and only you should know it.”
Set allocated times for using technology and keep it communal: “Setting allocated times to use gadgets will help them to understand there are other things in life as well. Also make sure all technology time is communal for both you and them. If you use your computer/phone/tablet secretively it will only encourage them to do so as well,” notes Miles.