Six in ten 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 per cent look at their internet history, while 55 per cent also check text messages.
More than a third of parents look at their children’s pics 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 ten admit they are wracked with guilt for spying on them after they had found perfectly innocent messages.
Over one in ten admitted that their children know more about social media than they do and could “run rings around them”.
As a result nearly 56 per cent 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”.
Four in ten 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 ten 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 ten 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 thirty per cent 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 ten said app developers could do more to help them keep an eye on what their children are up to.
Cam Le, Chief Marketing Officer for BullGuard 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.”
Top ten – gadget rules used by parents
1. No gadgets at the dinner table
2. Parents must know passwords
3. No phones, tablets and laptops in kids’ rooms at night
4. No gadgets taken to school
5. Specified time limit everyday
6. Gadget ban until homework is finished
7. No gadgets on school mornings
8. Must be on good behaviour to use gadgets
9. All gadgets must be on silent
10. All gadgets must be loud so parents know when a message arrives
Top ten – alarming messages found by parents on their children’s phone
1. Conversations using bad language
2. Topics discussing sex/sexual content
3. My child being bullied or spoken to badly
4. Groups of young children excluding other children
5. My child speaking to people badly
6. Conversations about alcohol
7. Conversations complaining about me/other parents
8. Conversations about smoking
9. My child being a bully
10. Conversations about cheating in class/during exams