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UK parents see smartphones as key to children's safety
Mon, 26th Feb 2024

Despite prevailing worries and adverse debates on smartphone usage by those under 16, fresh data indicates that most UK parents actually endorse this technology to ensure their children's safety and to provide them peace of mind. Interestingly, the discovery also exposes shifts in parental concern and attitudes towards children's liberty over generations.

The study came from Life360, the family locator application and safety membership platform. This organisation has collaborated with parenting specialist, Kirsty Ketley, to produce a list of recommendations on promoting children's self-reliance in the safest manner possible.

According to the investigation, smartphones play a crucial role in ensuring safety, independence, and convenience for pre and early teens in the eyes of UK parents. A majority of parents believe children should possess a phone by the age of 13. Safety and security are ranked as the top reasons for giving their child a mobile phone by 67% of parents, which far outweighs other elements such as educational requirements, convenience, and social interactions.

Despite most parents having spent their youth engaging in outdoor activities and staying out late with friends, parenting styles have significantly varied with time. Two-thirds of UK parents with children aged 13 and under perceive themselves as more apprehensive than their parents were and often adopt more safety measures than the previous generation.

The parents of Gen Alpha children recounted that their parents allowed them to stay home alone (67%), travel to school without adult supervision (81%), and go out with friends unsupervised (67%). However, as parents themselves, most are less likely to permit their own children to take part in unsupervised activities before their teenage years, with 60% for staying home alone, 73% for travelling to school without adult supervision, and 59% when it comes to going out with friends.

In this era of digital families, numerous parents are accepting technology as a medium to maintain peace of mind while parenting. They feel reassured that it is simpler to track their kids now than it was during their own childhoods. Parents whose children own smartphones predominantly seek confidence by actively utilising location-sharing technology. Many concur this makes them significantly more likely to allow their children to engage in significant activities like travelling to and from school (86%) and visiting shopping centres or towns with friends (86%) unsupervised. Conversely, just 30% were uncomfortable with their child using social media.

Addressing the increasing parental concerns, parenting expert Kirsty Ketley believes that apps are pervasive in the modern world and using a location-sharing app can be advantageous for children to allow their parents to know their location without the need for frequent communication, all while offering parents peace of mind. Children must know that they are being tracked, but collectively agreed rules can be put in place by children and parents. This way, children can still retain their privacy and independence while being aware that their parents are available should they require them.

Moreover, even among the 40% of respondents whose children do not possess a mobile phone, most agree that they will demand active location sharing when the time comes (87%), and 57% of these will need it always. Location-sharing technology is deemed necessary by most parents in two main scenarios; for contacting emergency services and when their child is travelling without an accompanying parent or guardian.

David Rice, International GM and CSO for Life360, stated that the research was commissioned to comprehend the real-world concerns of UK parents and the precautionary measures they employ to ensure their children's safety. The results confirm the fact that the use of location-sharing apps can offer families a sense of certainty about each other's safety and location while fostering communication, increasing trust, and providing children more freedom.

The study surveyed 1,000 UK parents of at least one child aged 13 years or younger and was carried out by DKC Analytics using Pollfish, on behalf of Life360.