A new report suggests many mums and dads are sending their kids mixed messages.
A major study has found that parents’ awareness of online safety has doubled in the past 12 months.
There’s also been a significant decline in parents’ confidence that the benefits of their children’s online activity outweighs the risks, according to a new survey by Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator.
But, in an apparent contradiction, more and more parents are also providing children with their own devices at younger and younger ages.
The Children’s Media Use and Attitudes survey also found that gender differences in kids’ online activity seems to be diminishing, with more girls playing online games.
But while nearly half of girls (48%) aged 5 to 15 play games online - that’s a rise of about 20% since 2018 - they spend only half the time gaming that boys do (7.5 v. 14.5 hours weekly).
Hate speech and other risky content
The Ofcom study noted too that children were seeing more hate-filled material online, defined as “content directed at particular groups of people based on … gender, religion, disability, sexuality or gender identity.”
What’s more, children are increasingly using an array of platforms that are supposedly off-limits to under-13s, including WhatsApp (age limit: 16), Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
But the most interesting findings were to do with parents’ attitudes. Despite only 55% believing their child gets more benefits than risks from being online - down from 65% in 2015 - mums and dads seem fine with letting kids begin their online journey at ever-younger ages.
That same study found that fully half of 10-year-olds owned smartphones - that’s a 40% increase since 2015 - and more than six in 10 three- to seven-year-olds have tablets.
All of that said, the research also found that parents are increasingly realising they need to be involved in their children’s online lives. The number who indicated they would be likely to go online themselves for cyber safety support and resources has nearly doubled since a year ago.
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