Parents buy smartphones for their toddlers when they are as young as 5 years old, boosting the risk that malware infections and SMS fraud will increasingly target users who are still only learning to read, according to a study by Bitdefender.
The survey of more than 2,000 parents in the US, Spain, France, Germany, Romania, Brazil, Portugal, Italy and Russia showed that most parents buy an Android device for their kids when they are 10 to 13 years old. However, an increasing number of American children aged 7 to 9 and almost 3 per cent of 5 year-olds own one, too.
More than 9 per cent of US kids receive an Android device by their 10th birthday, while almost one in ten of American kids get a phone at age 8 or 9.
While children are increasingly familiar with sophisticated technology at a young age, early adoption of smartphones and tablets does pose risks. Though it might reassure parents that their children are in easy reach, a mobile phone at young ages can expose children to cyber-bullying, sexual predators, malware and fraud.
â€œTodayâ€™s children are no doubt more tech-savvy than their parents were, but we still canâ€™t expect them to be fully aware of the scams that cyber-criminals are crafting specifically to dupe them,â€ said Bitdefender Chief Security Strategist Catalin Cosoi. â€œThese cyber-criminals know that kids are more likely to fall for fake game updates and installations, SMS fraud, buying `freeâ€™ credits, premium number scams, and malware installations via compromised apps. As smartphone use grows among children, criminals will be looking to exploit them at an ever faster pace.â€
In May this year, a Bitdefender study showed kids start watching porn online from as early as the age of 6, and flirting on the Internet from the age of 8. The research of over 19,000 parents also revealed some children lie about their age when creating social network profiles, especially on Facebook, where they must be at least 13 to sign up.
Parental control blocks inappropriate content and potentially harmful SMS or calls, restricts Web access between certain hours, helping parents remotely monitor childrenâ€™s online activity. GPS location allows parents to watch their childrenâ€™s mobile phone on an interactive map. While this feature may be indispensable at younger ages, for teenagers it may be used as a discrete security measure to prevent real world dangers.