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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

UK Parents Find Solace in Smartphone Ownership for Children’s Locational Safety

Recent studies highlight a shift in parental concerns and attitudes towards children’s autonomy and technological necessities. A parenting specialist advocates for the acceptance of apps as a standard aspect of contemporary life, contributing to familial tranquillity.

Smartphones are increasingly seen as essential tools for the safety, independence, and convenience of young adolescents, a recent survey of UK parents reveals. The research indicates that most parents believe children should possess a mobile phone by the age of 13, with 67% citing safety and security as the primary reason for equipping their offspring with a device, surpassing other factors like educational purposes, convenience, and social interactions.

According to findings from the family locator app and safety membership platform, Life360, there’s a noticeable contrast between the laissez-faire childhoods many parents experienced, characterised by extensive outdoor play and sleepovers, and the more cautious approach they now adopt with their own children. A significant proportion of UK parents of children 13 years old and younger, part of what’s dubbed ‘Gen Alpha’, perceive themselves as more apprehensive than their own parents and tend to exercise greater caution.

Reflecting on their childhoods, these parents recall times of being left home alone (67%), commuting to school unaccompanied (81%), and spending time out with friends without adult oversight (67%).

However, as parents themselves, they are generally more hesitant to permit their children the same levels of unsupervised activities before reaching their teens (with 60%, 73%, and 59% expressing reluctance for the aforementioned activities, respectively).

In this digital era, many families are turning to technology as a means to alleviate the worries associated with contemporary parenting, finding solace in the fact that it’s now simpler to monitor children’s whereabouts than in previous generations.

Among parents whose children have smartphones, a vast majority find comfort in utilising location-sharing technologies, with many concurring that it considerably increases their willingness to let their children undertake significant activities like commuting to school (86%) and visiting town centres or malls with friends (86%) without supervision. Regarding other smartphone uses, only 30% expressed opposition to their children engaging in social media.

In light of growing parental concerns, parenting expert Kirsty Ketley has been commissioned by Life360 to develop tips for parents on how to encourage children’s independence in the safest way.

She states, “Today, our parenting styles are shaped by the complexities of the modern world. While our parents had their own challenges to navigate, we now face additional considerations such as social media, knife crime, and county/local lines. These factors add to the complexity of fostering independence in our children when they are away from home.

“Apps are a very normal part of the modern world, and using a location-sharing app is a great way for children to allow their parents to know their whereabouts without having to ring or send messages, while also giving parents peace of mind. Of course, children need to know that they are being tracked, but rules can be put in place – jointly made by kids and parents. This way, children can still have their privacy and independence while knowing their parents are there should they need them.”

Even among the 40% of surveyed parents whose children do not yet own a mobile phone, the majority anticipate enforcing active location sharing once they do (87%), with over half insisting on constant monitoring (57%). Most parents deem location-sharing technology crucial, particularly for emergency situations and when children are travelling sans parental supervision.

David Rice, Life360’s International GM and CSO, remarks, “We commissioned this research to understand real-life concerns of UK parents and the steps they take to feel reassured about their children’s safety. The findings reinforce the fact that using location-sharing apps can provide families with a sense of security about each other’s safety and whereabouts whilst opening lines of communication, improving trust and allowing kids more freedom.

“It’s beneficial for tweens and teens to have access to smartphones as this technology often becomes an integral part of day-to-day family life across multiple generations and, in some cases, vital in emergency situations.”

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