updated 02:05 am EDT, Wed September 21, 2011
One in 20 primary-school kids have an iPad
A survey commissioned by a security app developer that polled parents in the U.K. has revealed surprising attitudes about children and access to technology and the internet. The study focused on primary-school children (ages 5-10) and found that one in 10 kids under the age of 10 years old already owns their own iPhone. One in 20 have their own iPad, and one in 10 children in the survey had a social networking account -- despite the age limit of MySpace and Facebook being 13.
The under-10s in the survey (conducted among 2,000 parents of children aged 10 and under) were likely to be able to make calls unassisted, competently text (20 percent), draft and send an e-mail (five percent) and go online without assistance (10 percent). A quarter of the kids had their own e-mail account.
That children are much technologically aware at younger ages than ever before is hardly surprising -- but what shocked the security firm that commissioned the survey was the lax attitude of the parents in supervising their children's use of the internet. While 68 percent of the parents said that they bought the devices for their kids in order to keep tabs on them, 50 percent of the parents said they had no form of parental controls installed on their internet-connected devices and 12 percent said they regularly leave their children to "play" on the net unsupervised.
The parents themselves were very likely to be computer owners themselves, with 72 percent owning laptops or tablets, and half owning an iPhone or Blackberry. About 15 percent of the parents said their children use the parents' mobile or tablet devices or computers, with five percent saying their youngsters are more competent on the machines than they are.
Generally the survey found that parents thought the age of 10 was sufficient for buying children their own new mobile device, while many younger children received the technology at earlier ages due to "hand me downs" as parents moved on to newer models. While only five percent of parents admitted never checking what their children were accessing on the devices, 88 percent said they paid the bills for their child's phone, with two thirds of them relying on "pay as you go" plans to limit the amount of use the devices received. The average bill for the children's devices was under $20 a month for 75 percent of parents.
The amount of time children spent online did not seem to be a significant concern for parents in terms of what they were doing, but the devices made getting children to engage in more traditional activities such as sport and going outside more difficult. Some 22 percent said they frequently argue with their children about the amount of time they spend online. Most parents estimated their children average three hours a week online, not counting phone use or texting, or non-recreational internet use, for example as part of schoolwork.
Westcoastcloud, the firm that commissioned the study, has recently released an iPad app called Netintelligence for school administration use in web-filtering and other online protections, and plans to release a home-use version later this year.