Half of children left exposed to online threats as parents fail to use built-in controls

Less than half of parents use parental controls on internet-enabled devices bought for their children – leaving millions of youngsters potentially exposed to online threats, according to research published by ESET UK this week.

Over the past year, 77% of parents bought their children at least one device which could connect to the internet – but only 45% of those use built-in parental controls offered by the device’s OS, by AV software, or via their ISP.

The reseach, conducted by ESET to coincide with Safer Internet Day, found that many parents feel “alienated” by the rapidly changing world of technology, according to The Telegraph’s report..

On average, parents feel it’s suitable for children to use the internet unsupervised at age 10 – but one in four parents admit they “never” talk to their children about online safety, with 45% saying they believed this was the children’s school’s responsibility. Half of parents admitted they believed their children hid aspects of their internet activity from them.

According to ESET LiveGrid, there are approximately 20,000 unique PCs report infections every day in the UK.

“The internet is a brilliant playground for children,” said Mark James, Technical Director of ESET UK. “It allows them to engage, explore and learn – all undoubtedly positive things; however without the right guidance from parents, children can find themselves in dangerous situations that they’re unable to deal with alone.”

“The average age at which parents now feel it’s suitable for children to use the internet unsupervised is just 10 and a half years old. At such a young age, it’s easy to be confused by online scammers and tricksters, which makes the need for protection all the greater.”

The study, which polled some 1,000 adults with children aged between 5-18 found that a third of parents confessed to feeling ill-equipped to educate their children about staying safe online.

ESET’s Mark James says: “Naturally, talking to strangers online, instant access to adult material and cyber-bullying are all top of mind when parents worry about their children’s online activities.”

“In addition, it’s also important for parents to feel empowered to teach their children about online threats such as viruses and malware. Accidentally clicking on the wrong link or downloading dodgy software could spell disaster, as devices become infected and online scammers potentially gain access to your most private possession – your family’s data. Further steps from the Government in advising parents on how to tackle their burning questions on the topic would be welcomed by many.”

We Live Security offers a guide to how to keep children safe online without monitoring everything they do.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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