London: Parents are increasingly worried about their children's online behavior yet smartphones and tablets are expected once again to be big family gifts this holiday season.
A BullGuard study of 2000 UK parents with children aged between eight and 15 shows that one in five don't trust their offspring to behave sensibly online, and six in 10 parents who describe themselves as concerned about what their children may be saying or doing via Facebook or Snapchat admit to sneaking a look at their kids' smartphones. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 25% of parents that are keeping tabs say that they've been shocked by what they've found.
"The research shows parents are understandably nervous about what their children are up to on the internet," said Cam Le, Chief Marketing Officer for BullGuard. "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."
Smartphones and tablets have heralded a mobile revolution. The latest data from the Pew Foundation shows 73% of US teens (13-to-17-years-old) own a smartphone and 92% of owners are online every single day.
Little wonder that the average teen sends and receives on average 100 emails and text messages a weekend or that the average worried parent spends nearly two hours a week going through their children's message, browsing and email history.
And the remaining teens that are currently locked out could be joining this revolution come the holiday season. The CEA forecasts that 26% of US consumers will be buying a new tablet and 24% a smartphone as a gift.
But rather than panic about opening Pandora's box in app form, just as with the television 30 years ago or games consoles 20 years ago, children's use of smartphones and tablets can be managed in house with the introduction of simple rules.
When polled, the most popular household rules in BullGuard's survey are: No devices at the dinner table, no gadgets in bedrooms at bedtime and, no gadgets before homework is completed. Many parents also use the ultimatum that unless passwords are shared there can be no smartphones allowed.
However, for those that are increasingly worried, there are a number of Parental Control Software packages on sale that can be installed on PCs and mobile devices, such as Net Nanny and McAfee Safe Eyes that can filter content in web searches, track or even block social media activity and record chat.
"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," said Le.