I was interviewed on Sky News and BBC Three Counties Radio today as it is Internet Safety Day about a survey of 1,500 parents by Internet Matters showing that six-year-olds are now as digitally-advanced as 10-year-olds were three years ago.

As many as 48% use the internet for general browsing compared with 46 per cent of ten-year-olds in 2014.

And three quarters of six-year-olds play games on a tablet or a smartphone, 44 per cent go on the internet in their bedrooms and 41 per cent do so unsupervised.

As many as 32 per cent of children aged six used instant messaging, compared to 31 per cent of 10-year-olds in 2013.

Figures also showed that 27 per cent of six-year-olds go online outside their own home.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters, said: ‘While the statistics around six-year-olds and their internet habits might be surprising to some, it shows the rapid pace of change in technology and how vital it is for parents to both set up devices safely and understand some of the risks involved when a child goes online.

‘While we want to encourage children to explore and enjoy technology throughout their childhood, we also want to make sure parents are on top of exactly what they need to be doing to ensure they are doing it safely, from the very first point they are able to pick up a device, and regularly talking to young children about what they should to do in certain situations is vital.

‘Issues that a six-year-old may encounter can range from stranger danger to viewing inappropriate content such as violence or pornography, so it’s vital you have parental controls in place and to ensure the websites and apps they are using are suitable for their age group.’

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who is an Internet Matters ambassador, said: ‘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.’ 

A separate study by UK Safer Internet Centre found that seven in 10 children and young people have seen unsuitable images and videos online.

The vast majority of eight to 17-year-olds questioned (84 per cent) told researchers they had shared a photo online in the last day, with around 17 per cent saying they had done so in the last hour.

Around 70 per cent of this age group said they had seen content which was not suitable for their age in the last year, while among 13 to 17-year-olds alone, almost half (45 per cent) said they had seen nude, or nearly nude, pictures of someone they knew being shared around their school or community.

In addition, just over one in five (22 per cent) of all those surveyed said that someone had posted an image or video in an attempt to bully them. 

Take your head out of the sand and step up !

Here’s how …….

TIPS

5 Things you can do TODAY

  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 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 and posts.
  4. Check your parental controls on your home broadband, and safety filters that block inappropriate content across ALL DEVICES. 
  5. ‘Talk and Teach’ your children about the risks they may be exposed to and how to deal with them such as cyberbullying, grooming  and make sure that they can feel that thye can come and TALK to you if they see anything upsetting.

Click on the -> Checklist: Set up your child’s tech devices e-safely