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Only a third of parents put safeguards on their children's device

A mother looks on from the kitchen as two pre-teen boys use a smartphone in the living room.  She is out of focus but it is clear to see her sense of discomfort with what they are doing on the internet.
Parents are becoming increasingly concerned about their children's activities online. (Getty Images)

The internet can be a wonderful place for learning and broadening connections, but concerns over what children are exposed to online is increasing among parents.

Tuesday, 6 February, marks Safer Internet Day, a global event that promotes online safety and encourages people to examine the role that technology plays in young people’s lives.

In recent months, a number of celebrities have spoken out about their own worries about how social media affects their children. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex used their Archewell Foundation to call on social media platforms to adopt better content moderation policies, while Penelope Cruz branded social media a "cruel experiment" on kids and teenagers.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said in a statement last week via their foundation that "the best parenting in the world cannot keep children safe from these platforms". It came after the US Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on online safety for children.

Meanwhile, Cruz told ELLE Magazine that she is determined to keep her children away from social media until they are at least 16, as she said it is "so easy to be manipulated, especially if you have a brain that is still forming".

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 10: (L-R) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex speak onstage at The Archewell Foundation Parents’ Summit: Mental Wellness in the Digital Age during Project Healthy Minds' World Mental Health Day Festival 2023 at Hudson Yards on October 10, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Project Healthy Minds)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have highlighted the need for better protections for children on social media. (Getty Images)

As parents try to navigate the ever-shifting online world and balance it with their children’s needs and wants, online safety tools have become essential to help protect young people.

But new research from Apple to mark Safer Internet Day revealed that only three in 10 parents have actually implemented safeguards on their child’s device.

The survey also found that only one in four parents have had discussion with their children to educate them on how to behave and be safe online.

Apple also revealed that, while nearly half (41%) of parents take charge and monitor their children’s screen time, they aren’t always aware of that they are viewing.

To help parents make better use of the tools that can help keep their children safe online, while encouraging their independence, Apple has launched a new programme called Today At Apple.

The programme comprises free educational workshops that are held in stores globally and include sessions for parents, guardians, children and young people. In these sessions, Apple experts teach users about the safeguarding tools available on their devices and how they can be implemented quickly and easily to help people stay safe online.

Some of the tools that Apple offers include:

  • Screen Time: This feature gives users a better understanding of the time they and their children spend using apps, visiting websites, and on devices overall. They can get weekly reports or see specific app usage, notifications and device pickups.

  • Downtime: Users can set a specific time when apps and notifications are blocked, and choose which apps are accessible or off-limits.

  • App Limits: Combine individual apps and websites, or even whole categories, into a single limit - this can be used on games or streaming apps so that kids get a notification when they’ve reached their time limit.

  • Communication Limits: Parents can choose who their children can communicate with throughout the day and during downtime.

  • Communication Safety: This feature detects sensitive images or videos children might receive or attempt to send in Messages, Airdrop, FaceTime messages, Contact Posters in the Phone app, and Photos. If a sensitive image is detected, this feature warns the user, gives them options to stay safe, and provides resources for help.

  • Restrictions: Parents can prevent children from installing new apps and making in-app purchases.

  • Screen Distance: The device’s camera can detect when a user is holding it closer than 12 inches for an extended period and encourages them to move it further away.

Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s director of User Privacy, said: "At Apple, our goal is to create technology that empowers people and enriches their lives — while helping them stay safe.

"We're proud to support Safer Internet Day — welcoming thousands of people in our stores to help them make the most of the safety features on their family’s devices."

Watch: Prince Harry hopes his children 'never have to experience' current social media climate

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