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Parents are poorly equipped to protect their Children online, says survey

Parents are relying too heavily on simple trust that their children doing as they are asked to when using the internet, according to research from

84 per cent of parents polled across the UK said that they rate a verbal agreement with their children on safe Internet usage as their number one means of monitoring online activity.

This comes in the wake of a worrying Ofcom report which has found parents are ignorant of the danger posed to millions of children by social networking websites such as Facebook, Bebo and Myspace.

Michael Phillips, product director of, said: “Ofcom’s study shows children using sites such as Facebook and Bebo are at greater risk from paedophiles and bullies. Children are bypassing online age restrictions to put reams of intensely personal detail about themselves online.”

“In light of this it’s surprising that so many parents rely heavily on their child doing what they ask – it just isn’t going to happen in most cases and the recent Ofcom report highlights the dangers the Internet can pose.

“With the recent growth in wireless broadband it’s likely that children are going to spend even more time unsupervised on the Internet. However, there are a few simple steps parents can take to bolster protection for their child when online. Rather than relying on a single approach, they should use parental control and security software, combined with education, to stop inappropriate material – and people – reaching their child.” BroadbandChoices research shows that the top four ways parents monitor their child’s online activity are:

  • A verbal agreement to use the Internet safely (84 per cent)
  • The use of parental control software such as McAfee and Norton (63 per cent)
  • Restricting the amount of time children spend online (62 per cent)
  • Manually checking the computer to see what they have been doing online (59 per cent)

The poll also asked children aged 11-16 what they had actually been doing online during the school holidays. The top three activities were:

  • Downloading music and photos (48 per cent)
  • Joining in with chat rooms and making new friends online (45 per cent)
  • Using social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook (40 per cent)

“The wide availability of the Internet has made ‘stranger danger’ omnipresent. Parents need to be made more aware of the simple checks that they could put in place to safeguard their children who are increasingly using the Internet to build new relationships.

“As well as the possible safety threats posed by the Internet, your child’s online activities could land you a bigger bill at the end of the month. With 48 per cent of children regularly downloading from the Internet, usage allowances could easily be exceeded and parents could find themselves out of pocket at the end of the month if they aren’t able to monitor it,” concluded Phillips.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.