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Adults risk leaving children vulnerable to online dangers this Christmas, Barnardo’s survey reveals

Release Date: 01 Jan 2018

Barely half of adults who bought internet connected presents for children this Christmas will check who the youngsters are communicating with online, a survey by Barnardo’s has found.

Whilst almost nine out of ten adults (88%) who bought such presents for a child are aware there are potential risks to children in cyberspace, just 55% said they would monitor who the youngsters were talking to.

Almost one in 12 (8%) of those surveyed said they had, or intended to, buy an internet connected gift for a child this Christmas, meaning as many as four million such devices, including iPhones and tablets, were given to youngsters this year*. More than half (55%) were bought for a child aged 10 or under.

However, only six in ten (60%) adults who bought an internet connected device for a child this Christmas will activate the maximum privacy settings that are designed to help to keep children safe when they are online.

The survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the UK’s largest children’s charity Barnardo’s, also found barely a third (36%) will read the terms and conditions to understand the potential online risks.

The results make clear a gulf between the public’s appreciation of the potential risks posed to children by the internet and the action they should take to reduce them.

More than four-fifths (81%) of those who had or planned to buy an internet connected gift for a child said they were aware that strangers could contact and connect with the child through them.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:

At Barnardo’s we understand how vital the online world is to children, but also how the risks can damage their childhood.

Internet connected devices like tablets and iPhones can also come in the guise of harmless dolls or teddy bears and potentially allow strangers to pinpoint your address, obtain your child’s name and birthday, download their photograph and even listen in on conversations.

We’re not saying don’t buy or allow your children to enjoy these toys or devices, but we are urging parents and relatives to ensure their children are as safe as possible by ensuring privacy settings are at maximum and that they monitor who their children are communicating with

In 2016-17, Barnardo’s supported 3,430 people through its child sexual exploitation support services, an increase of 38% on the previous year.

The charity advises parents and carers to be cautious if the device:

•      Connects directly to the Internet via WiFi

•      Connects via Bluetooth to a device which is, in turn, connected to the Internet

•      Contains speakers, contains microphones or cameras

•      Features a recording device

•      Contains wireless transmitters and receivers

•      Has GPS capability

•      Connects to a mobile app

•      Requests a name, address, date of birth or other personal information when you register

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