Six in 10 worried parents monitor their children’s phones to see what they’re up to online, according to new research by internet and mobile security expert BullGuard.
The study of 2,000 parents revealed that one in five do not trust their children online and suspect they are accessing inappropriate content, with a quarter saying they were shocked by what they found after reading through emails, Facebook posts and instant messages.
Cam Le, Chief Marketing Officer for BullGuard, said: “The research shows parents are understandably nervous about what their children are up to on the internet. Clearly parents want to protect their children from harm – yet they also to want to ensure their kids do not miss out on the fantastic things the web has to offer.
“With the internet ever evolving it’s no wonder mums and dads are troubled by what they see as a lack of control, however there are lots of steps they can take to help ensure their children are safe.”
During a typical weekend, the average child sends and receives over 100 emails, texts and instant messages. Over a third of worried mums and dads admit they look at their kids’ emails, while nearly four in ten read through their instant messages on apps such as Kik, Snapchat and WhatsApp.
Just over 55% look at their internet history, while 55% also check text messages. More than a third of parents look at their children’s pictures on Facebook and Instagram to see what they are up to.
Checking up on their internet activities is so routine that mums and dads spend on average one hour 45 minutes every week looking at their kids’ devices.
Half of parents sneak a peek while their kids are asleep, a quarter do it when they are at school and nearly a third do it whenever their children are not looking.
Despite this, four in 10 admit they are wracked with guilt for spying on them after they had found perfectly innocent messages. Over one in 10 admitted that their children know more about social media than they do and could “run rings around them”. As a result nearly 56% have rules in place about when their kids can access their smartphones or tablets.
The number one rule set by parents is “no gadgets at the dinner table”. The second is they must know their children’s passwords and number three is “no gadgets at bedtime”.
‘Parents can put in place discrete parental controls which will help keep their kids safe but allow them to get the best out of the internet’
Four in 10 said they were alarmed to see their children discussing sex or sexual content, while a quarter found evidence of their child being bullied. Nearly half found them using offensive language. Close to four in 10 feel like they have little or no control over their children’s online activities.
And over a third think their children could be up to “anything” online when they are claiming to be using the web for homework. Nearly a quarter of parents have noticed their children quickly minimise windows when walking in unannounced.
While four in 10 suspect their children have secret social media profiles and nearly half suspect their children delete content from their smartphone so no one can see it. Nearly 30% have parental controls set up on their children’s gadgets while over a quarter said their children have a pin code on their devices – and they don’t know what it is.
A staggering two thirds of mums and dads aren’t familiar with the apps their kids use. Seven in 10 said app developers could do more to help them keep an eye on what their children are up to.
Cam Le added: “The wide range of ways people can now communicate weren’t available to modern parents when they were growing up, so there is certainly an element of the unknown when it comes to how best to protect children. Parents can put in place discrete parental controls which will help keep their kids safe but allow them to get the best out of the internet. The steps they can take are simple and unimposing so children can have fun without missing out on what their friends are up to.”