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Kids with mobiles – they’re getting younger

By BullGuard, who provide software that keeps people secure online and helps protect children on computers and mobile devices, on 01 Jul, 2014

It’s something we probably all suspect intuitively, but research into kids' mobile usage has confirmed that most UK children under the age of ten have some form of mobile device. A survey of 2,000 UK parents by internet security company BullGuard revealed that 70% of children are equipped with a mobile phone, smartphone or tablet by the age of 10.

At one level it may seem surprising but this is the age of technology. And in the developed world at least there are very few points in our lives that are not in some way influenced and shaped by technology.

The survey also revealed that most parents give their kids mobile tools simply to stay in touch with them. Thirty seven percent said it helps them with their homework, while a reasonably large 31% bowed to peer pressure and said they didn’t want their children to feel left out. A not inconsiderable 25% also said they did so because it keeps the kids quiet. 

One of the intriguing, and alarming, facts thrown up was that 60% of children between the ages of 7 and 10 have Facebook accounts. The stipulated minimum age for a Facebook account is 13.

It’s alarming because trawling social networks for vulnerable children is a favoured method for predators. And the younger the child the more vulnerable they are. Predators may operate alone but they are not alone. A peek into the underground deep net reveals the extent and scale of predatory activity.

There are many chat rooms exclusively for paedophiles and some of them are even divided into sections according to the child age preferences of the abusers. Some predators also have levels of technology expertise that are incredibly deep and they share tips on how to avoid detection.

It’s disturbing stuff.  

Within this context the revelation that a large number of young children have Facebook accounts is bracing. Parents are not unaware and the survey revealed that 46% of parents with children aged between 11 and 14 cite online stranger danger as their biggest concern.

However, in comparison, 41% of parents with children aged between 7 and 10, the underage Facebook group, cited stranger danger as a major concern. This suggests that many parents are not aware that their children have Facebook accounts.

This may also be borne out by the fact the 30% of parents said they feel like they don’t talk enough to their children about potential online dangers.  Sixteen of parents with kids under 10, and 12% with children aged between 11 and 14, said they never talk to their children about online danger.

Today’s children are faced with a raft of pressures from school exams to sometimes unrealistic expectations, overt and subliminal media messages and peer-based internet-based chat and social networks. It’s hardly surprising that harried parents have difficulty in keeping up. But as the survey also illustrated most parents trust their kids online, its other people they don’t trust.

However, simple safeguards can be put in place that discreetly protect children online. These tools also give parents the sense they are doing what they can to look out for the kids without having to sit slumped over a computer for hours at a time or engage in some kind of 24/7 monitoring more suited to an intelligence agency than a mom or dad.

In a world where mobile usage is the norm for today’s children, who literally begin tapping screens not long after toddling (2% of UK kids have mobile devices by the age of three), it’s a wise and sensible thing to do.