Survey: Kids now online at age 3

16% of 3-year-olds are on the Internet, study finds

Survey: Kids now online at age 3
Derek Walter

The Internet has changed young children’s lives and they now are as comfortable picking up an iPad as they are a coloring book.

Kids now spend twice as much time on the Internet as they did 10 years ago, and it’s escalating, research from an age-verification software developer has discovered.

U.K.-based Agechecked says that over a quarter of kids there (28 percent) are using the Internet before they attend their first school. The statutory school age there is from five years old.

And “one in six children, or 16 percent, begin their online experience at age three or under” the report (PDF) claims. Parents need to get aware, the company believes, and they should be acquainting themselves with their kids’ habits.

“This isn’t an issue that can be left to schools considering a quarter of children are active online” pre-education system. Luckily, very young kids aren’t all that good at password hacking, the firm says. But, parents do need to become more aware, it thinks. And in particular, more and more devices owned by the family pose problems. It’s harder to monitor activities with that “growing number of devices.”

A little over half (53 percent) have access to a device, such as a smartphone. Another half (52 percent) can get onto a shared PC, and a whopping quarter were found to have an Internet-connected PC in their bedroom.

Games consoles and smart TVs also provide a gateway. Sixty-four percent had consoles and 32 percent had smart TVs.

Interestingly, while online pornography was a concern for most parents, with three-quarters of them indicating websites with pornographic content was a worry, many (71 percent) were almost as concerned with social media. The reason was the threat of cyberbullying which was seen as a threat to the child’s welfare.

Video sharing sites were only a slightly lesser worry. Kids stumbling on, or purposefully viewing, “violent or inappropriate content” troubled 70 percent of parents.

Under a half (46 percent) were hand-wringing over kids’ potential access to 18+ adult-classified films, and a slew of parents expressed fearfulness over game in-app purchasing (51 percent). Rounding it out, forty percent worried about shopping sites that might allow their little angels to buy illegal-to-carry knives and e-cigarettes, among other e-commerce. Knives are used in street gang-crime there.

So it isn’t just pornography that parents worry about. And in the UK, that, and gambling, have seen some levels of government interdiction. But social networks and other websites are clearly a major concern too.

“They are worried about more subtle causes of harm to their children just as much as exposure to explicit images.” That includes communicating with malintent third parties and reputations being tarnished.

Interestingly, some parents are clearly taking a pro-active stance, because although many kids are completely au fait with the Internet by the time they’re five, about 20 percent of the studied were found not to be accessing the Internet at all until they were 10-years-old, or older.

That’s not necessarily good, the researchers suggest.

“With so much of daily life carried out online, are children missing out by not accessing online games and educational sites earlier?” it says.

Agechecked, the report publisher, provides regionalized, rapid online age checks for websites, it explains on its website.

“Social media, video sharing, shopping and media sites all need to up their game when it comes to putting age controls in place according to parents,” the report contends.

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