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Are you aware of your child's social media activity?

AWARENESS: Social media (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

AHEAD OF Safer Internet Day (Feb 6), credit information provider, Equifax, commissioned a detailed study of parents’ attitudes about their children’s online activity.

The results highlight an urgent need for some digitally naive parents to educate themselves in order to help them protect their families from online dangers.

Just 30% of UK parents are ‘friends with’ or followers of their children’s social media accounts, and 80% of parents never check their children’s internet-enabled devices to see what they are sharing.

Internet safety expert Russell Winnard from Young Enterprise said: “If parents are not regularly checking their children’s smartphones or tablets – not just the posts visible to those parents who do actually follow their accounts – they could be missing vital clues.

"Some parents believe they are doing their bit by following their children’s accounts, but this does not take into account the fact that a child could be putting themselves at risk with the information, messages and content they send and receive privately.

This year, Safer Internet Day is focusing on the theme of ‘Create, Connect and Share Respect - A better internet starts with you’, highlighting the important role parents play in maintaining a safe online environment for their children.

"And the new Equifax commissioned research underlines that parents, as well as children, need to educate themselves on the risks and the preventative measures they can take to protect their family.”

Most social media platforms have a recommended minimum user age of 13, but without thorough checks in place there are many underage users. In addition there is no real ‘age limit’ on using the internet in general.

The ability to surf freely means children could potentially have access to a wealth of age-inappropriate content, which not only a poses a risk to their own safety and personal data, but also that of their family.

The results of the Equifax-commissioned study reveal that many parents are concerned about how much time their children spend online, so much so that one in five confiscate smartphones and tablets at bedtime to limit the time their children can spend online.

Russell Winnard added: “It is great to see parents taking responsibility for limiting time spent online, but confiscation of devices isn’t a solution in itself. Parental controls are available on most devices, and can limit what the child does and sees, as well as how much time they can spend online each day.

“Another issue raised in the study is that of photos and videos being shared. Naïvely, 30% of parents believe that once a photo of their child is deleted from a social media account it is wiped from existence. That is simply not the case.

Images can stay online indefinitely, depending on where and how they have been shared. It is also concerning to see that more than 25% of parents believe it is sometimes acceptable to share images of other people, without gaining permission.”

Lisa Hardstaff, credit information expert at Equifax, commented: “Internet safety is a hugely important issue which must be taken seriously by both parents and children.

"Equifax has created a handy ebook on how young people and adults can stay safe online and once again is an official supporter of Safer Internet Day. All the vital work the organisation does helps to raise awareness of the issues, dangers, and solutions available today.”

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