Children of today are addicted to the internet and parents talk of it being an insatiable habit. To feed this desire, they are not just logging on to the family computer for an hour a day but are connected 24/7 to the Internet via a plethora of multiple devices – whether it be a laptop, tablet, games console or mobile phone.
The amount of time young people spend online has trebled in the past 10 years, with teenagers now spending some 27 hours a week online . And it’s not to do their homework. Research shows that every minute of the day 347,222 tweets are sent on Twitter, Instagram users like 1,736,111 photos, and Facebook users like 4,166,667 posts .
As a result of this , the always-on generation is suffering from a number of health issues, not least of which is sleep deprivation, but it’s also come to light that three quarters of youngsters are not spending even an hour a day in the fresh air – the time recommended for prison inmates . As the report itself concluded “…it’s time we gave parents the tools, skills and confidence to do the things that they know are good for their children.”
This is a key point. Parents are often lacking confidence to take control of their children’s internet time, and are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the advancing technologies latched on to by today’s children. They are positively bewildered by the so-called solutions on the market designed to protect their children when they are online. The fact of the matter is that, historically, tools designed to limit a child’s use of the internet have been technically orientated and haven’t kept pace with the changes in online habits. Most often parents are guilty of underestimating the resourcefulness of a motivated tech-savvy child of the 21st century in seeking out their online fix.
There remains a distinct lack of understanding of the dangers lurking in the darker corners of the Internet, what our children are actually doing online, and how best to protect them. One of the key reasons is that the Internet, at least in a guise recognisable today, simply wasn’t about when we ourselves were impressionable youngsters. Yes, there were plenty of dangers during the time we were wearing short trousers, but many of them went away as soon as we came home and closed the front door.
Now, parents are looking to regain their sanity and regain control of their children in the digital realm. Yes, the Internet can be a fun and educational experience, but there are many untold dangers that it is important for parents to understand and control access to, whether it is a blanket ban or limiting of the hours in which they can access them.
Unfortunately many of the tools on the market have simply not been up to the job. Tech savvy children can easily circumvent the parental controls on the likes of BT and Sky within minutes whether it be by finding where the admin password is printed, using anonymous proxies or simply turning their device to bypass the home Wi-Fi and access free Wi-Fi or the Internet via mobile data networks. It is a growing concern, with new research by the charity Action For Children finding that a staggering one in four parents struggles to control their children’s internet use .
As an experienced technology professional with over 25 years in the industry, I consider myself to be tech savvy, but even I have to work hard to keep up. First and foremost though, I am a father to three children and have had first-hand experience with my children of how obsessive usage, anonymous chat sites, online bullying and content can effect family life. So I understand the fear that all parents must have and wanted to do something about it to make it easier for everyone to keep their children’s online habits safe and healthy.