Parents who use tech to distract young children are having to lock down their devices as their children become more tech-savvy, a new study by Online Spy Shop reveals.

The majority (88%) of parents who participated in the study said they’ve given their children access to their phone or computer to keep them entertained.

But of those, 80% (70% in total) report having had concerns about their own privacy as their children grew older.

Dads are more likely to cover their tracks on average. 66% said they’d concealed their online behaviour from their children, compared to 49% of mums. But the methods and reasons differ.

For dads, keeping young eyes away from unsuitable material is the top reason. For mums, it’s to protect their own privacy.

Common ways parents cover their tracks

How did you conceal your online behaviour?




Deleted browsing history




Changed password on a phone




Changed password on a computer









dads delete browser history.png

Most parents (40%) said their motivation was to protect their own privacy.

But more than a third (37%) said they took action to protect their children from unsuitable material, such as news content and adult humour.

Why did you do restrict your children’s access?

Women %

Men %


To protect my children from unsuitable material




To protect my own privacy




To keep something a surprise









Steve Roberts, director of Online Spy Shop, believes parents are right to scale back access to gadgets once kids become more tech literate.

“There are some truly brilliant apps for kids and as a parent, I can say these have been a lifesaver on long car journeys. But as children get more tech-savvy and learn to read, there are obvious risks.
“Depending on the device, there are ways to restrict access and protect privacy without completely locking children out, but not all parents know this. So it’s not a surprise that some parents are now ‘covering their own tracks’ to keep their kids away from unsuitable content.”

Top Tips for Kids and TechSafety should always be your main concern when allowing kids to access tech. But since you’re the parent, only you can decide what’s appropriate and how to go about protecting your children, but here are some tips from the online security experts at Online Spy Shop.

Set up a restricted profile

Most computer operating systems will allow you to set up a separate user account or ‘profile’ for your kids. Here you can edit the security settings, set up a list of restricted sites and resources and ensure that your children can only access suitable content, without ruining the fun and adventure of going online.

Turn off in-app purchasing

This has been a high profile problem in the past, like children who didn’t know any better have cost their parents thousands of pounds by making purchases while using an app. Children have been known to rack up thousands of pounds worth of purchases before their parents realised the problem. In 2014, The Guardian reported that the responsibility lies with three distinct groups; the app company, the platform from which the child made the purchase and the phone provider.

We suggest there’s a fourth, the parents. Never let your children have access to a device that can make purchases.

Educate your children

This is a solution that no amount of technical ignorance can excuse. It’s so important to communicate the risks of going online to your kids. You don’t need to scare them with horror stories, but you should make the following safety steps very clear.

- Never give out personal information, even to people they’ve chatted to before

- Always tell parents if anything makes them uncomfortable or feel unsafe

- Never post pictures of themselves

- Never agree to meet with an online friend without discussing it with parents first

Adults and their own parents

The study participants were also asked about their social media habits and how they relate to their own parents. Of the 48% of adults whose parents were also social media users, 64% say they are connected with their parents, with Facebook being by far the most popular platform for doing this. Looking just at those who were connected with their parents on social media, the majority (72%) admitted that being connected with their parents in this way caused them to moderate the content they shared. Of the adults who have social media contact with their parents, 22% restrict their parent's access to their profile in some way, either by using default restrictions or by manually excluding them from being able to see their posts.

Steve's advice for any adult concerned about how much of their online their parents see is to take control of the boundaries.

"When it comes to parents and social media, things can be more complex than people expect. There are just some things people don't want to share with their parents, that they are happy for their online friends to see.

"Every adult should be in full control of how much access to their life their parents have. Social media is quite performative. Our online personas can be quite different to the persona our parents recognise, and there are lots of examples of parents embarrassing their adult children by not respecting this fact. Whether that's by posting photos without consent, or simply commenting when it's the last thing their child wants.

"Privacy comes into it too. Some people simply may not want their parents to know that they were out on the town the night before they promised to help with a household task.

"My advice is to get familiar with your privacy settings and if necessary, restrict the content that your parents have access to. It's quite simple to connect with them, without them seeing every update, photo or comment you make."