Parenting comes with its fair share of worries, particularly in the age of smartphones, tablets and other digital devices that allow kids access to the internet 24 hours a day.

But a new study reveals just 1 in 5 parents actually set and enforce screen time limits for their children.

The study – conducted by the U.K.’s Digital Schoolhouse – asked 2,000 English schoolkids between the ages of 9 and 18 how they felt about staying safe online.  Researchers also asked the kids how involved their parents or caregivers were in establishing rules and boundaries regarding internet usage.

Here’s the takeaway: the majority of kids felt online safety was important, and 76% of respondents felt very confident in their ability to stay safe online.

For the most part, kids seem to understand and utilize the privacy settings and features on their social media accounts, smartphones at tablets – with 77% saying they see the need for updating those safeguards regularly.

When it comes to parents and their involvement in their child’s internet safety, however, there seems to be a disconnect.  The study revealed just 44% of parents actually talk to their kids about online safety. Additionally, 39% of kids say their parents have never talked to them about the importance of protecting their privacy and safety online.

Only 19% of the respondents said their parents set and enforced limits on internet usage, while 30% have rules that aren’t necessarily enforced. A whopping 35% of kids said they could spent as much time as they wanted online without parental intervention.

“Regardless of actual parental practice what’s important here is the student’s perception,” researchers wrote. “If they don’t perceive there to be limits placed upon their time spent, then they are unlikely to follow this in practice.”

The study calls for more parental involvement, especially considering the fact that while 82% of said they knew how to update privacy settings, only 67% have actually done so. That’s not entirely surprising, researchers said.

“The vast majority of us know we should eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day,” researchers wrote. “However, how many of us actually manage to eat the recommended 5-a-day and stick to it? … The same analogy can be applied to internet safety. While we may have a broad understanding of the dangers and how to stay safe, continued work is needed to help people actually put this into practice.”

So how do we as parents get involved in our child’s internet safety? Common Sense Media offers the following basic family guidelines to help get you started:


  1. Follow your family’s rules about when and where to use the internet.
  2. Be polite, kind and respectful.
  3. Understand a websites rules, and know how to flag other users for misbehavior.
  4. Recognize “red flags,” including someone asking you personal questions such as your name and home address.
  5. Never share personal information (name, school, phone number, address, etc.) with strangers.
  6. Never send pictures to strangers.
  7. Keep passwords private (except from parents).
  8. Never open a message from a stranger.
  9. Immediately tell an adult if something mean or creepy happens.