Sexting is UK Parents Biggest Concern When it Comes to their Childs Smartphone Use

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on July 14, 2015, Press Releases

A new study has found that 65% of parents are concerned about the rise of sexting, the worrying trend that is becoming the ‘norm’ leaving youngsters vulnerable to exploitation and blackmail.

The survey, carried out by mobile phone comparison site Tiger Mobiles, quizzed 3750 parents with children aged between 12-16 years who own a smartphone. Key findings revealed that:

  • 65% of parents revealed they had concerns about the possibility of their children sexting (sending & receiving)
  • However, as far as talking to their children about their behaviours and risks associated with owning a smartphone, a surprising 58% admitted they have not done so.
  • Other concerns include cyberbullying (45%), accessing inappropriate content (62%) and racking up bills through apps and other micro-purchases (24%)
  • 35% of parents said they occasionally monitor their child’s smartphone activity with their child’s knowledge. Compared to 23% who said they do so without their child’s knowledge.
  • 19% of parents had made use of location tracking to track their child’s location
  • 43% of parents also expressed a significant dissatisfaction with sex education at school citing irrelevance to their real experiences, lack of relationship advice and lack of discussion of sex issues as problems.

The survey comes after the Agency of Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) revealed it receives reports of young people sending self-generated nude or nearly nude visuals on a daily basis.

Brandon Ackroyd, head of customer insight at Tiger Mobiles believes that parents concerns are justified due to “growing smartphone ownership amongst children, together with fast moving technology which has helped create a perfect storm.”

He added “With technology moving at such a fast pace even the cheapest mobiles now have cameras that children can easily take pictures of themselves and distribute them online. Practically all modern phones have a connection to the internet meaning “sexts” can instantly be posted on social networking sites which are accessible by millions of people.”

“Parents need to be aware that when a child uses a mobile device to access the web they are using the same internet as on a computer and unfortunately there is a knowledge gap whereby parents don’t think smartphones and tablets need the same level of protection as a PC or Laptop. This way of thinking needs to change.”

Ackroyd also believes that as well as parents needing to brush up on technological skills the need for proper communication with their child about the risks is a necessity.

“We live in a highly sexualised media environment. Sexting has become extremely popular amongst this generation and the pressure placed on younger kids to participate is growing. That means that sext prevention messaging and explaining the risks to a child is critically important.”

Those thoughts were echoed by web safety campaigner Alexis Vanni who said parents should engage with children if they discover they have been involved in sexting.

She said: ‘If you discover your child has sexted, don’t shame them, which can drive the behaviour underground. Explain the risks and let your child see past there their naivety surrounding the implications of sending sexual messages. Let them know they can assert their right to not be constantly badgered to send sexual content or images.

Tiger Mobiles have also created an in depth resource on protecting your children on their smartphone.

Sample of Survey Data

Potential Smartphone Concerns

Which of the following concerns do you have about your child and their use of their smartphone? Again, if you have more than one child between 12-16 years of age with a smartphone, please think of concerns with the oldest such child.

Base: Parents of smartphone users aged between 12-16 years of age.

% of Parents Concerned
Texting or messaging while in class at school 43
Check phone while crossing the road 12
Share negative gossip about someone [NET] 39
Share negative gossip about someone via text 25
Share negative gossip about someone via social media 18
Sending / Receiving suggestive messages or “sexts” 65
Receiving suggestive messages 48
Sending suggestive messages 56
Receiving or downloading suggestive photos 62
Sending or uploading suggestive photos 55
Accessing inappropriate content on the internet 62
Spending money on apps and other micro purchases 24
Cyberbullying [NET] 45
Cyberbullying another person 9
Being cyberbullied by others 38
Cheating on an exam [NET] 15
Cheating on a test by looking something up on it 10
Cheating on a test by using it to communicate with someone else 12
None of these 22

Smartphone Rules

Which of the following is true regarding your child who has a smartphone? Again, if you have more than one child between 12-16 with a smartphone, please think of the oldest such child.

Base: Parents of smartphone users aged between 12-16 years of age.

% of Parents Concerned
I occasionally check their smartphone to monitor their activity [NET] 57
I occasionally check their smartphone to monitor their activity with their knowledge 35
I occasionally check their smartphone to monitor their activity without their knowledge 23
I have disciplined them by taking away their smartphone on at least one occasion 39
They are allowed to protect their smartphone but they must share the password 45
I have a smartphone “curfew” after which the device must be turned off or not in their possession 28
I occasionally use my own smartphone to track their location [NET] 19
I occasionally use my own smartphone to track their location, with their knowledge 15
I occasionally use my own smartphone to track their location, without their knowledge 7
I have discussed with my child the potential risks associated with smartphone use 42
None of these 18

Methodology

This survey was commissioned by Tiger Mobiles and conducted by polling agency Carter Digby online within the United Kingdom between May 18th and June 1st, 2015 among 6,286 adults whom have children aged between 12-16 years old. 3,750 of whom have children who own a smartphone. The survey utilised Carter Digby’s proprietary omnibus platform. Respondents for the survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Carter Digby Interactive surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Carter Digby Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.