A new study by IT security firm ESET has revealed that children in the UK are being allowed to surf the internet completely unsupervised before they are trusted with their own set of house keys.
22 percent of the 1000 British parents surveyed said they allow their children, aged under seven years, to surf the internet unsupervised, while the average age was 9.5. In comparison, the average age at which British parents give their children their own set of house keys is 10.8. These findings highlight that despite being protective of their children’s physical safety, parents are still not recognising dangers of the internet.
Commenting on the study findings, Mark James, security specialist at ESET, said: “What parents must understand is that their children could be talking to anyone online. While they think they are talking to another child of similar age, there is actually no way to be completely sure. One of the biggest problems is that parents treat their child’s internet usage like watching television – they do not expect them to see inappropriate content, however the harsh reality is that children are curious and want to explore the internet, even when they know it’s wrong.”
Surprisingly, considering the findings from the study, when parents were asked if they feel children are using technology too young, 64 percent either agreed or strongly agreed.
ESET also compared the UK findings to parental attitudes in the US, Germany and Russia. The comparison revealed that only 3 percent of Russian parents allowed their children to surf the internet unsupervised when aged 6 or under, while the figure was around 15 percent for all UK, US and German parents. Russian parents were also most strict with their young children (6 and under) playing unsupervised in a playground at only 18 percent of children being allowed to do so, compared to 28 percent in the UK and US and a massive 40 percent in Germany.
Interestingly, despite being the most protective of their young children, on average Russian parents were actually the first to give their children mobile phones at only 7 years and 2 months, 8 months earlier than their house keys. On the other hand, Brits are granting their offspring their first phone at 9.8 years, almost 10 months before their first set of house keys (10.6). This is closely followed by American parents who give children their first devices shortly before their 10th birthday (9.7), just after Germans, at 9 years and 7 months (9.6).
James points out that “while it has always been strongly advised that children should be supervised when using the internet, this advice is rarely taken. Parents do not view the internet as a place that could cause any immediate danger to their child as the places they visit on the internet is done in the comfort of their own home. This is not a good attitude to take and the internet should be treated with caution as there are a number of online threats which could also have a physical impact on their child.”
So here are ESET’s seven golden rules for parents and children for online security:
- Updated Antivirus and Security software is a necessity.
- Updated OS as well as up to date installed applications is a necessity.
- Be vigilant and monitor your child’s internet connection: set a password and allow children to surf the web only during the times when you can periodically check on their online activities. Set clear rules about the use of computers.
- Instruct children on internet privacy: they should never supply personal data and details to strangers on the web and social networks.
- Control the web camera as it can be easily misused by criminals and strangers. Unplug or cover your webcam when you don’t use it. There is malware that can access your webcam without you knowing about it or, if your machine is compromised, it could be turned back on remotely. Have children use camera only for approved communication: with known friends and family.
- On social media, if you or your child shares the wall with “Everyone” or “Friends of friends” then you have lost control of who has access to all data
- The information posted on the internet does not go away. Do not assume that when you delete a photo or even the whole social network account that you have automatically deleted all the data forever. Pictures and information might be already saved on someone else’s computer. Children and parents should think twice about which pictures and details to put on the Internet.
For the full findings of the study visit the ESET blog at: http://www.welivesecurity.com/2016/02/23/digital-childhoods-different-nations-bring-kids/