Research: Lockdown increases parents’ illegal downloads
October 20, 2020
By Colin Mann
The majority of parents who have previously downloaded illegal content for their kids said they have done so more during lockdown, according to a new report from online safety advisory body Internet Matters.
Nearly six out of 10 parents (56 per cent) who admitted to illegally downloading content for their kids to watch said they had done so more frequently during lockdown.
Worryingly, more than a quarter of parents (27 per cent) said they would feel comfortable downloading or streaming illegal content on behalf of their children, with nearly one in five (18 per cent) believing it is safe, indicating that they are oblivious to the risks and to the dangers to which their children could be exposed.
However, more than seven in 10 parents (71 per cent) said they would be worried or horrified if they inadvertently exposed their kids to explicit or violent content when downloading or streaming films, TV shows or sports illegally.
Recent data from the Industry Trust for IP Awareness suggests they would be right to be worried. The data found that one in three people who had accessed content illegally had been exposed to age-inappropriate content such as offensive pop-ups while watching, highlighting the risks many parents could be exposing their children to.
The data from the Trust also found that almost half of those downloading or streaming illegally have experienced a virus or hacking – numbers which have increased significantly since the start of the year. It also suggests that the risk of experiencing these adverse effects from pirating content are increasing, with reports of hacking, virus or malware, ransomware, blackmail and extortion all having risen significantly over the last 12 months.
The warning comes as Internet Matters launches an online video campaign featuring real parents’ reactions to the dangers of digital piracy. An online hub has also been created to help educate parents as to the risks and support them in keeping their children safe from digital piracy. To support the launch, the organisation has partnered with mum of three and author of the Toby and Roo blog, Harriet Shearsmith.
“Like many parents and families, my kids are using technology and being more active online – from schoolwork to watching their favourite creators through to keeping in touch with friends and family,” commented Shearsmith.
“We’re all living online more now than ever before. And being aware of our online safety as a family is hugely important to me. That’s why I’ve partnered with Internet Matters on this campaign to help inform and educate other parents about the dangers of downloading or streaming illegal content.”
“This research highlights that many parents may not be fully aware of the risks of digital piracy,” noted Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters. “Whilst children and adults alike might be tempted to stream or download a film or TV show, if it is not done through legitimate services, an innocent click can put them at risk of seeing inappropriate content or accidentally installing malware on their device, putting personal and financial information at risk. It’s why we’re launching an online hub and campaign. We want to arm parents with the knowledge and tools that help them choose safe content sources.”
Internet Matters recommends the following tips to keep children safe from associate risks of digital piracy:
- Use parental controls to help restrict access to Internet browsing on devices connected to the Internet. Whilst they are not 100 per cent effective, they can help minimise the risks your children may face. Be aware that there are no parental controls on illegal streaming devices so children may be at risk of seeing inappropriate content
- Explain the risks of streaming and watching illegally pirated content to your children and show them where they can watch content safely. It’s really important to teach your child skills like critical thinking and resilience, so they know what to do if they encounter risk.
- Stick to legitimate services when you watch content online or on your TV as these should be appropriately age-rated
- Download apps that you trust onto streaming devices or smart TVs, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. Subscription services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and NOW TV also have apps with kids’ content you can download
- Set online boundaries by finding out what your child likes to do online and agree which websites and apps are best for them to use