Children as young as eight giving out their personal details to people they meet online

  • Children shared their mobile number and home address with people they met online
  • Less than two thirds of parents check who their children are talking to on social media
  • O2 and NSPCC relaunch their Net Aware site to help parents better understand the apps, sites and games their children are using

Almost a third (29%) of children aged eight to 13 have given out personal details to people they’ve met online, according to new research.

The survey of 2,000 children, commissioned by O2, also revealed their social media profiles contained potentially sensitive information, with almost a quarter displaying their email address and 8% showing their phone number. Some even revealed their home address. Seemingly innocent details such as pets’ names (25%) and the school they attend (24%) were the most frequently revealed.

It was also found that, from a list of 36 apps, children were most likely to say they used YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Roblox regularly.  But just 37% of children feel their parents understand YouTube, with that figure dropping below 10% for Snapchat and Roblox.

The news comes as O2 and the NSPCC relaunch Net Aware, a website designed for parents to learn more about the latest apps, sites and games their children are using, along with technical and safeguarding tips.

The survey results also showed that parents are more likely to talk to their children about safety in the real world versus the online world.

While 82% of parents speak to their kids about wearing a seatbelt, and 81% tell children about the importance of saying no when they are asked to do something they’re uncomfortable with in the real world, less than two thirds (65%) of parents check who their kids talk to online.

Both O2 and the NSPCC recognise that keeping children safe online can feel overwhelming for parents. Net Aware takes away the fear factor and encourages parents to have regular conversations with their children about their online lives.

When it comes to devices, parents are strictest about phones (40%), followed by tablets and videogame consoles. Just 8% of children felt their parents were strictest about them using a laptop.

Presenter and mum of two, Tess Daly has teamed up with O2 and NSPCC to launch the Net Aware site. She said:

“I know how difficult the topic of online safety can be between parents and their kids. It’s our job as parents to do all we can to make sure our children know about staying safe online, and to make sure we have open conversations with them so they feel comfortable asking questions they might think seem awkward.

“The new Net Aware site helps you keep up to date on the latest social networks, apps and games children use, letting you know about their safety features and whether they’re age appropriate. It’s really helped me get a better understanding of how to talk to my kids about the online world. You’d talk to your child about not talking to strangers in the real world, and it’s really important to apply that to apps and games too.”

Ann Pickering, Chief HR Officer and Chief of Staff at O2, said: 

“Apps and social media are a brilliant way of keeping in touch with friends and making you feel less alone, but it’s vital that parents understand and talk to their kids about the potential dangers too.

“We launched the Net Aware website with the NSPCC so that parents can learn about the latest social networks, sites and games, and we’re very proud to announce that we’ve now expanded the platform with even more up-to-date advice, information and top tips from our O2 Gurus.”

Laura Randall, Associate Head of Child Safety Online, NSPCC, said:

“It is vital parents think of the online world in the same way as the real world. They wouldn’t send their child on a school trip without checking where they are going and who they are going with. The same level of scrutiny should apply to any app or game their child is using. That’s why we continue to work with O2 to provide the latest information for parents about the most popular apps, sites and games their children are using – all at their fingertips on one website.”

A video about the campaign can be viewed and downloaded on Dropbox here, or watch on YouTube.

Net Aware is free to access at https://www.net-aware.org.uk.

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Markettiers surveyed a representative sample of 2,000 children aged 8-13 across the UK in August 2019.

O2 is working with the NSPCC to educate parents and help them feel more confident about talking to their child about their online activity so they can enjoy the online world safely. They have developed a range of free online resources, including a new and improved Net Aware site which explain the social networks, apps or games their children use most frequently. Parents can also access personalised advice and support about family online safety via O2 Gurus either in O2 stores or over the phone through our advice line, which is open five days a week (0808 800 5002). The resources are available to everyone, both O2 customers and non-O2 customers.