New Study Addresses Toddler Privacy and Internet Safety

Few parents of toddlers think about Internet safety for their children, but in the technological age, it’s something that all parents should be thinking about.

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According to recent studies, children are getting online younger and younger – as young as just days old, in fact. They’re gaining access through tablet devices, smartphones and other media devices. But children, particularly young children, may not understand the dangers that may be lurking on the Internet.

Dr. Brian O’Neill, responsible for the EU Kids Online project in Ireland explains why this is a problem.

“EU Kids Online has spent seven years investigating 9-16 year olds’ engagement with the internet, focusing on the benefits and risks of children’s internet use. While this meant examining the experiences of much younger children than had been researched before by EU Kids Online began its work in 2006, there is now a critical need for information about the internet-related behaviors of 0-8 year olds. EU Kids Online’s research shows that children are now going online at a younger and younger age, and that children’s lack of technical, critical and social skills may pose a greater risk.”

One of EU Kids Online’s greatest concern isn’t over how children interact with the internet, however; it’s how their parents interact.

“Specifically engagement with online service providers to review their user consent policies and responsibilities to ‘take-down’ information in a wide range of circumstances. This includes confidential, risky and erroneous information inadvertently posted by minors – as well as parental postings,” O’Neill told Science Daily.

If you take a look on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – pretty much any social media outlet – you will undoubtedly see photographs of young children. Many of those photos are posted by parents. While they aren’t at fault for wanting to share those photos with family and friends, those pictures become public access. This can lead to a number of issues regarding child safety and privacy.

But how children themselves interact is also an area of concern, EU Kids Online says. The number of children accessing virtual worlds through social network functions are expected to increase significantly in children ages 3-11, and honestly, the increase has already started happening. Unfortunately, children under the age of nine may not have the capacity to safely engage in a safe and beneficial manner online, especially where social networks are concerned – a place where they can interact with people of all ages from all over the world.

According to Science Daily, there were some key recommendations made in the report for parents, including:

  1. Development and promotion of realistic evidence-based guidelines for parents/carers regarding the engagement of very young children with digital technologies and the Internet. Education packets should be geared towards parents of specific age groups so that parents can maximize potential benefits while also minimizing the potential risks for their children online.
  2. Development and promotion of age-appropriate internet safety education for all age groups, including children in preschool or nursery school.
  3. Continued engagement with device designers to encourage default privacy protections that would protect children while on smartphones, tablets and other mobile media devices.
  4. Better disclosure regarding how information is shared, collected, used and collated through children’s apps along with an opt-out choice for parents and children that are using these apps.
  5. Engagement with online service providers to review user consent policies and responsibilities regarding ‘take-down’ information, including risky, erroneous and confidential information that may be posted by parents or inadvertently by minors.
  6. Education geared towards parents to help them understand how the posting of photographs, videos and posts of and about their children may have an impact on their child’s digital footprint.
  7. Development of appropriate investigative methods that would include the internet experiences and opinions of very young children.

Have you ever given any thought to how your toddler interacts with the internet? Have you ever wondered if it was safe to post photos or videos of your children? When do you think this might be appropriate? When might it be inappropriate? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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