A worrying 44% of children aged six are using the internet alone in their bedrooms and 41% of them are using it at home without supervision
Six-year-old children are as digitally advanced today as 10-year-olds were three years ago and nearly half of them use the internet for general online browsing, new research reveals.
A worrying 44% of children aged six are using the internet alone in their bedrooms and 41% of them are using it at home without supervision.
They are using social media , streaming content, and even uploading their own videos to YouTube.
To mark Safer Internet Day, web safety group Internet Matters are urging parents to take action at an early age and keep their children safe online.
Alarmingly the number of parents saying they are always present to supervise their child aged six when they are online, using computer devices, has gone down in the last three years from 53% to 43%.
Mum-of-four Zoe Holland, 39, from Uckfield, East Sussex, has noticed the changes first hand as her children Morris, 12, Leon, 10, Daisy, six and Logan, one, have gravitated towards spending more time online.
She and husband Matt, 37, are constantly learning when it comes to monitoring their children on the internet.
She says: “Daisy mostly uses my tablet so I manage the device that she’s on and she’ll mostly use the tablet for going on cartoons on Netflix and games.
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"But my older children are interested in making their own YouTube videos and have their own YouTube accounts.
"They’re so technology savvy, we’re not always aware of what they’re up to. I can see them becoming more advanced at understanding the internet in the future.
“It can be isolating for children if you don’t let them have the smart phones that their friends at school have, there’s a lot of peer pressure.”
Zoe, who runs blog jugglingonrollerskates.com, reveals that she worries about what her kids can be exposed to online.
“It terrifies me what they can just look up on Google,” she says. “I would hate them to come across something that is shocking.
"We’ve made it a rule that they’re not allowed to delete their internet history so we have that awareness. But it’s a learning curve.
"We are looking in to accountability apps - where you monitor and control what the children use on the phone. For peace of mind and visibility we want to know what’s going on. It’s all about trust.”
EastEnders actor Danny-Boy Hatchard, who plays Lee Carter in the BBC soap, thinks that internet safety should be taught in schools.
Child in a hospital bed playing a computer game on a digital tablet
Internet safety should be taught in schools
The star, working with Safer Internet Day, told the Mirror: “Social media safety should be on the national curriculum.
Children need to be taught about these tools to educate them and make sure they’re in a safe environment when they’re online. Parents need to monitor their kids’ use closely.”
Pyschologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, author of Unfollow: Living Life On Your Own Terms, says: “This research shows just how quickly young children are advancing in the digital world.
It also serves as a stark reminder why parents need to be extra vigilant and arm their children with the tools to stay safe online.
“As well as setting up the relevant parental controls, it’s important to make sure you set boundaries when it comes to how your children use the internet at home.”
How to keep your children safe online
1. Ask your child what they are doing online. It’s important you understand what websites, apps, and social media platforms they are on.
2. Check their privacy settings. Make sure they know how to make their profiles ‘private’ so they are not sharing personal information to strangers. Facebook have a Privacy Healthcheck feature.
3. Make sure they know when and how to report and block any malicious or inappropriate messages or posts.
4. Check your parental controls on your home broadband and safety filters that block inappropriate content across any devices.
5. Talk to your children about the risks they may be exposed to and how to deal with them, such as cyberbullying and grooming, and ensure they feel able to come and talk to you if they see anything upsetting.