A new piece of research from Internet security firm ESET has revealed that British parents will allow their children to surf the internet completely unsupervised years before they are trusted to be given their own set of house keys.

The internet study, which was carried out in January 2016, looked at the attitudes of 1000 British parents towards their children’s online habits. Key findings revealed that 22 percent of parents will allow their children to surf the internet unsupervised when they are under seven, however the average age is actually 9.5. Respondents were also asked at what age children were allowed to play in a public playground without supervision and the results revealed that 37 percent of parents will wait until their children are over ten years old. Other findings from the study revealed that on average children are 10.6 years old before they are trusted with their own set of house keys.

Commenting on the study findings, Mark James, security specialist at ESET, said: “Our study highlights the fact that parents are still not recognising the internet as something which can cause harm to their children. Parents obviously do not feel comfortable trusting their children with their own set of house keys at a young age, but they have no problem letting their child surf the internet without their supervision. 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.”

Other findings from the study revealed that on average children will be almost ten by the time they are given their first smartphone and are allowed to install mobile applications without supervision, in addition to this, the study also showed children are on average 11 years old by the time they have opened their first social media account. This is of course in contrast to the rules of many of the most popular social networking sites, which state that children should be at least 14 before they are allowed to open an account.

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.

“Parents should be proactively encouraging their children to do internet safety courses so they are aware of how to use the internet responsibly. The training will teach children about threats on the internet and how cybercriminals lure their victims. 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,” continued James.

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.

[su_box title=”About ESET” style=”noise” box_color=”#336588″]ESETSince 1987, ESET® has been developing award-winning security software that now helps over 100 million users to Enjoy Safer Technology. Its broad security product portfolio covers all popular platforms and provides businesses and consumers around the world with the perfect balance of performance and proactive protection. The company has a global sales network covering 180 countries, and regional offices in Bratislava, San Diego, Singapore and Buenos Aires.[/su_box]