A new Amazon-backed US study from Washington-based international nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) has found that 70% of parents are comfortable with their child having a connected device or toy, but data privacy and safety guidelines are still an essential piece of the puzzle.
Conducted for FOSI by Hart Research Associates, the study’s results are based on quantitative data from an online survey of 601 parents of connected two- to 12-year-old children, as well as qualitative findings from three focus groups among parents—two groups with diverse parents in suburban Philadelphia and one group with parents from across the US whose children have connected devices or toys.
In Connected Families: How Parents Think and Feel about Wearables, Toys and the Internet of Things, research found that nearly half (45%) of parents of connected children indicated that their child has three or more of his/her own connected devices. The figure increases to 53% among parents of color.
Nearly 70% of parents of connected children reported that their child has a tablet, while 36% indicated that their child has a cell or smartphone. However, more than half of the parents surveyed also reported that their child has access to a smartphone.
As for video game consoles, 50% of parents reported that their child has one. Rounding out kids’ device ownership, 32% of parents report that their child has a handheld device or iPod with Wi-Fi, 31% (connected toy), 29% (desktop or laptop computer) and 10% (wearable connected device, such as a smart watch or fitness tracker).
The study also found that parents are heavily connected, too, and spend an average of 6.2 hours per day using electronic devices at home. Smart TVs were found to be the most prevalent smart home device among parents of connected children, with 67% reporting one in the home. Nearly 40% of parents also report owning other connected home devices including internet-enabled home security systems, smart thermostats or smart speakers.
Looking at comfort levels, parents whose children have devices are notably more comfortable (94%) with their child having a connected toy than are parents whose child does not have one (59% are comfortable). As for parents’ confidence in their ability to keep track of and manage their child’s technology use, two in three parents reported to be highly confident. Interestingly, parents’ confidence increases as their children acquire more connected devices.
The study also revealed that even though many parents have Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in their homes, the IoT term itself is not widely recognized. In terms of IoT ownership, nearly one in four parents (23%) has a smart speaker, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, in their home, and 94% who have a smart speaker are comfortable with their child using it.
FOMI’s IoT research follows on the heels of Google Home adding more than 50 new kid-friendly games, activities and stories to its line of smart speakers. Amazon, meanwhile, also just launched its first experiences designed specifically for kids for its voice assistant Alexa devices.
As for children’s safety and security, the top concern for parents of connected children is the prospect of online hackers or criminals communicating with children or locating them with GPS tracking. If data and safety guidelines are in place, the study found that parents’ comfort levels rise significantly.
Safety concerns continue to have a major impact on the tech toy industry. Mattel, for one, was recently forced to axe its Aristotle child monitor amid increasing privacy concerns and also announced that it is delaying its kids voice assistant Hello Barbie Hologram until 2018 so the toyco can conduct additional tests.
The new FOSI report is being presented today at its annual conference in Washington, DC, entitled “Trust and Civility in a Challenging World.”