Bad Mum

Magazine

20 February 2018

Young children at high risk of emotional damage from accessing adult content


Kids are only ever three seconds from online danger at home as parents unintentionally neglect to protect young children
Parents are not toddler-proofing their online world, with a huge 87 per cent[1] of parents admitting that they don’t restrict how much time their young children spend online – three-year olds are spending more than four hours a week with these ‘digital babysitters’ and being exposed to potential psychological harm, warns Kaspersky Lab.
There is a significant discrepancy in the ways that parents of young children protect them from harm, through both physical and digital environments, a Kaspersky Lab investigation has uncovered. With the high number of connected devices now in the home[2], children are on average spending over four hours a week watching video content online – and are only ever three seconds away from danger[3], yet 87 per cent of parents have neglected to toddler-proof their online world.




Parents take the protection of a child’s physical security extremely seriously. The Kaspersky Lab investigation reveals that 75 per cent of parents put up a stairgate before their child turns three and 57 per cent put locks on their kitchen cupboards, but only a very small proportion – 13 per cent – restrict how much time that children of this age group spend online. This rises just slightly to 33 per cent for four to seven year olds[4].

The average child spends 40 minutes per day, or 4.6 hours a week, watching online video content on a mobile device. Yet only 13 per cent of parents install online security on their smart phone, laptop or tablet – and 49 per cent have never reviewed the default settings to prevent the child viewing inappropriate material. Examining YouTube’s suggested videos, which sit visibly alongside clips or episodes of popular children’s television programmes such as Peppa Pig, users are just clicks away from content aimed at a more mature audience – featuring violence, guns and nudity.


Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online comments, “Parents of young children place high importance on protecting their children from physical harm but often overlook the importance of putting measures in place to protect them when they’re online. Exposure to inappropriate material can have a significant emotional impact on children so we need to help parents understand what they can do to keep their children safe when they’re online. Talking to your children about how to be safe online from a young age -  in the same way you would teach them about stranger danger or how to cross the road safely -  is a good start. We also advise parents to always install parental controls on all of their devices as a first step to keeping everyone in the family safe online.”
Louise Mapp, mother to three-year-old Lucas and 10-month-old Grace comments, “I’m all too aware of the daily struggle to keep both of my wilful, physically independent children away from physical harm. I’ve had to develop eyes in the back of my head! That being said, I haven’t installed any parental controls on the tablets or smartphones that they use – though I would be horrified to think that they could be susceptible to violent or disturbing content. It’s simply not something that I’ve discussed in depth with my husband or friends – but I think we’d all agree that our child watching something inappropriate would be one of our worst nightmares.”
It’s much easier to identify – and protect children from – risks of physical harm, but emotional harm should be equally prioritised by parents. With results from The Good Childhood Report 2017 showing that young people’s happiness is at its lowest level since 2017[5], it’s clear that we need to be doing more to protect children from online content that could cause emotional harm.
David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, explains, “Children are fortunate in that the technology available to them enables them to easily swipe and click to access entertainment or information from such a young age. We want to ensure that this freedom to explore the world can continue without sacrificing their emotional safety. The good news is that having parental controls in place and reviewing the default settings per app are two very small steps that we, as parents, can take.”



It's no longer a question of just securing kitchen cupboards and putting stairgates up; parents must also remember to toddler proof their online world. With younger generations becoming more IT literate and parents increasingly turning to mobile devices, online games and apps as a means of entertaining their kids, these results highlight the importance of taking steps to protect them online.
Kaspersky Lab’s top tips for protecting your family online are:
  1. Supervision – This may seem obvious, but supervise your child’s internet use. Encourage them to visit and stay on websites you’re familiar with. If you have any concerns, look at their browsing history. Be sure to know about any password-protected sites they may be accessing and ask them to share their login details with you.
  1. Be open – Encourage your child to be open about what they are doing online and who they are socialising with. Promote a culture of safety within the home and talk about the possible dangers which exist. 
  1. Protect your family – Use parental controls to block access to sites you don’t want your child looking at as part of your online security product – it’s an easy way to avoid disaster. Review the default settings on each app that your child uses to ensure that the camera or microphone, for example, aren’t needlessly turned on as these can pose a threat.

Here is a written interview with a case study, Louise Rolfe on the importance of putting measures in place to protect your children when they’re online.






Louise Rolfe, 33, is a busy working mum and has two children under the age of ten. From the age of one, Louise and her partner put up stairgates to protect their children in the home.  Also, in the house are two iPhones and one smart tablet – which the children use sporadically throughout the week.

As a mum, what devices do your children use – and how often?

“Predominately my eldest child, Lucas, uses mine and my partner’s devices a few times a week. We’re big on doing things as a family, but sometimes early in the morning when I’m trying to get ready for work – or my partner is trying to keep them entertained when making breakfast – we leave them both to watch videos or play on games.”

How long would you say your children spend on these devices combined?

“Perhaps an hour or so – so combined nine hours a week.”

Do you have internet security installed on these devices?

I’m all too aware of the daily struggle to keep both of my wilful, physically independent children away from physical harm - I’ve had to develop eyes in the back of my head! It would never occur to me to install specific mobile security applications on my device, even when my children are using them. When they use apps like YouTube I presume that they’re only accessing content that’s suitable for them. “

What apps do your children use?

“Video apps like YouTube and lots of games – although I will always make sure Lucas is using the YouTube for Kids app.”

Have you ever noticed your children accessing content that is inappropriate for their age – for example content aimed at an older audience, including nudity, guns or violence?

“I will always be in the room when Lucas is watching YouTube videos and I’ll notice that some of the suggested videos linking to what is currently showing isn’t appropriate at all – and can actually be really graphic. As an example, I’ve seen imitation videos of Peppa Pig pop up or scary Halloween videos which aren’t really suitable for a three-year-old.”



Do you speak to your children about their internet usage/habits?

“I’ll remove the iPad or iPhone from Lucas if I think he’s spent too much time on it – but he doesn’t really use it enough that I’ve thought about sitting him down and talking to him about the kind of videos he watches. I perhaps naively, assume that he won’t be able to access anything that’s harmful or damaging.”

What has the Kaspersky Lab research highlighted about your children’s online usage habits?

“I never would have suspected that they could be so close to danger at any one given time – it never occurred to me to set up specific protection to ensure that they can’t access inappropriate content. It’s simply not something that I’ve discussed in depth with my husband or friends – but I think we’d all agree that our child watching something inappropriate would be one of our worst nightmares!”


Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online comments, “Parents of young children place high importance on protecting their children from physical harm but often overlook the importance of putting measures in place to protect them when they’re online. Exposure to inappropriate material can have a significant emotional impact on children so we need to help parents understand what they can do to keep their children safe when they’re online. Talking to your children about how to be safe online from a young age -  in the same way you would teach them about stranger danger or how to cross the road safely -  is a good start. We also advise parents to always install parental controls on all of their devices as a first step to keeping everyone in the family safe online.”



About Kaspersky Lab
Kaspersky Lab is a global cybersecurity company celebrating its 20-year anniversary in 2017. Kaspersky Lab’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe. The company’s comprehensive security portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and a number of specialised security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats. Over 400 million users are protected by Kaspersky Lab technologies and we help 270,000 corporate clients protect what matters most to them. Learn more at https://www.kaspersky.co.uk/.

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