Tuesday 19 September 2017

Phones exposing children to smut

Nearly nine out of 10 children questioned had no security settings on their telephones. Photo posed: Thinkstock
Nearly nine out of 10 children questioned had no security settings on their telephones. Photo posed: Thinkstock

Hannah Furness

Around 1.2 million children have looked at violent or pornographic websites on their mobile telephones, according to a study that reveals the extent to which parents struggle to monitor their offspring’s activity online.

Children as young as eight are using smartphones to browse illicit content on the internet, the research found.

The problem is being exacerbated by the ignorance of parents, many of whom lack the technological skills to keep track of the dangers posed by new gadgets, according to experts.

The poll of just over 1,000 children aged eight to 15 in the UK, conducted by YouGov for Carphone Warehouse, found that nearly half owned a smartphone such as the iPhone.

Most said their parents had bought them the devices. A fifth said they had viewed violent or pornographic content on a telephone.

This suggests that 1.2 million out of a total of six million in the eight-to-15 age group have used a smartphone to access illicit material.

Nearly nine out of 10 children questioned had no security settings on their telephones, and 46pc of parents were unaware that they were even necessary.

A further 18pc of 15 year-olds also reported being bullied or bullying others using a smartphone, with 27pc receiving unwanted calls or messages.

Professor Tanya Byron, a leading child psychologist who has been advising the government on child internet safety since 2007, said the findings were “no surprise” in an age of developing internet technology.

She told The Daily Telegraph: “On the internet, parents who are not 'digital natives’, who were born in an era when the height of technology was a Sony Walkman, have struggled to keep up with what their children are doing.”

The survey found that the proportion of children accessing social networking sites on their telephones has increased eightfold in the past three years, to 38 per cent. In the same period, the number of children watching video clips on their telephones has more than doubled, despite the content being entirely unrestricted in the majority of cases.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre advised parents to wake up to the risks mobile telephones pose as online technology develops.

Its research has highlighted bullying, accessing inappropriate images online and losing control of photographs once they have been posted online as among the dangers faced by today’s children.

A spokesman said: “If your child has a mobile phone that can access the internet you need to think about what they may be able to access through it, such as porn sites and other inappropriate content.

“Most mobile phone networks offer parental controls. Talk openly with your child about the fact that there are things on the internet that might disturb, upset or embarrass them and that they can talk to you if they are ever concerned.”

Prof Byron, who has presented television shows including Teen Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways, said smartphones posed serious challenges to parents and the Government over how they could be regulated.

She suggested installing parental control applications on smartphones as an interim measure, but said speaking to children about the dangers of the internet was most effective.

She added: “It is important parents develop an honest communication with their children so that they can support them to be responsible digital citizens and help them with any worries or concerns.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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