More than a quarter (27 per cent) of parents believe their children have been exposed to online risks, such as accessing inappropriate content or cyber bullying in the past 12 months, according to a Kaspersky Lab study.
Despite this, research to mark Safer Internet Day taking place on 11th February, has found that one in five parents (22 per cent) takes no action to govern their children’s online activity – whether on the home computer or mobile devices.
“Regardless of how their children are accessing the internet, parents must remain vigilant, supervise their internet use and consider parental control technologies. However, as a parent myself, I find these statistics particularly worrying when you consider the increasing number of children using connected smartphones today. After all, when children use mobile devices to access the web, they are using the same internet, with the same risks – yet parents are often not as aware of the dangers,” says David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
The study also found that 18 per cent of parents had lost money or data from their personal device as a result of their child’s unmonitored access. With smartphone apps often being blamed in the press for children inadvertently spending hundreds of pounds, effective controls and open channels of communication around smartphone use is imperative.
David Emm continues: “There is a common misconception that smartphones and tablets don’t need the same level of protection as a PC, but with such a high percentage of parents not having a clear view of their children’s online activity, this way of thinking needs to change. The internet is an incredible resource, both for social use and in an educational capacity. But in the same way as we would teach our children to cross the road safely, we must teach them to be aware of, and respect, the dangers of the internet. Just because a threat is out of sight, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep it front of mind.”
David Emm offers the following tips to stay safe online:
1. Both Android smartphones and iPhones come with in-built parental controls – when purchasing a smartphone, ask the sales assistants to demonstrate these features. They have policies in place and a responsibility to make parents aware of these. By creating a demand, it is more likely they will let other parents know.
2. Apply settings that prevent in-app purchases to save hefty bills should children stumble across a game with expensive add-ons.
3. Install security software – these providers will offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, for example, adult images and senders of nuisance SMS messages.
4. Encourage children to talk about their online experience and in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Open a channel of communication so they feel they can discuss all areas of their online life without fear of judgement or reprimand.
5. Protecting children from cyber bullies is especially challenging with smartphones as they can be targeted in so many ways, especially out of view of their parents. Deal with cyber bullying as you would in real life by encouraging children to be open and talk to a trusted adult if they experience any threatening or inappropriate messages. Numbers and contacts on apps can both be blocked if they are making children uncomfortable.