Children use the Internet for schoolwork, socializing, watching films and cartoons, playing games and much more. But, as we all know, browsing the web can be an unsafe business. In order to control their children’s online activity many parents use specialized software – so-called parental control.
This software is usually capable of controlling the amount of time a child spends online or using the computer, which apps can be launched and what personal data can be disclosed. One of the most important features of a parental control product, however, is the ability to restrict access to web resources containing undesirable content.
This article examines the statistics of visits by children to websites with specific categories of content. For this we will use Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) statistics based on notifications by the Parental Control module in Kaspersky Lab products. These statistics will allow us to estimate which categories of undesirable websites children visit most often.
How the statistics are collected
Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control module scans the content of the webpage that a child is trying to visit. If the site belongs to one of the 14 categories listed in the module, it notifies KSN (no personal data is involved and the user’s confidentiality is respected).
Access to that webpage is only denied if the parents have selected the appropriate category in the product settings. The statistics are collected anonymously, regardless of whether the parents have selected the appropriate category (i.e., whether or not that category is blocked by Parental Control).
It should be noted that these statistics do not include mobile device statistics.
At the current time, web filtration is carried out for the following content categories:
- Internet communication media (social media, instant messaging, chats and forums)
- Adult content
- Alcohol, tobacco, narcotics
- Weapons, explosives, pyrotechnics
- Gambling, lotteries, sweepstakes
- Computer games
- Electronic commerce
- Software, audio, video
- HTTP query redirection
- Religions, religious associations
- News media
We selected the first 12 categories for analysis. We decided to omit “Religion” and “News media” as these categories were only introduced recently and sufficient statistics have not yet been collected.
The global picture
First of all, let’s look at the global statistics.
Distribution of Parental Control notifications between the 12 website categories globally, April 2015 – April 2016.
We can see from this diagram that children around the world spend most time on social networking sites and instant messengers, playing computer games, and, while online, repeatedly encounter the themes of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Less frequently, children and teenagers visit online stores, watch videos and listen to music online, sometimes encounter obscene language and occasionally visit (perhaps accidentally) porn sites.
These are the average statistics for the entire world. But are they the same for all regions or countries? It turns out that they aren’t.
For our comparison, we selected the top five website categories from the global ranking and looked at how they differed across five regions:
- North America (US and Canada)
- Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, UK, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Sweden)
- CIS (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine)
- Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico)
- Far East (China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea).
The results of the comparison are shown below:
Proportion of Parental Control notifications for Top 5 categories in different regions
In North America, children visit social media websites, use instant messaging systems, chats and forums less frequently than the world average, although they show more interest in computer games, alcohol and online shopping.
The situation in Western Europe is very similar to that in North America.
In the CIS, children and teenagers are less interested in online shopping than in other regions.
In Latin America, as well as in the CIS, Internet communication media are very popular with kids and teens, while computer games are played less frequently than in other regions.
The situation is different in the Far East. Social networks are almost as popular there as they are in western countries, but kids and teens don’t spend as much time playing online computer games (which may be due to the popularity of game consoles). Instead, they spend more time visiting online shops, such as the Japanese Rakuten, amazon.co.jp, Uniqlo, and Taobao in China.
Differences between countries
We found that even between countries within the same region there are differences in the popularity of the website categories. For the purposes of comparing the situations in different countries, we added the “Adult content” category to the top five. Let’s begin with that category.
When we speak of children’s safety online, it’s impossible to avoid the topic of pornography – this is the worst nightmare for millions of parents. For quite some time, this category was at the top of the ratings, but we now have some good news! According to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics, children from around the world are visiting pornographic and erotic websites, adult dating sites and online sex shops less and less.
Popularity of the “Adult content” category around the world, Jan 2015 – Apr 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control module statistics
However, we cannot rule out the possibility that children visit adult content websites from their mobile devices: for them, it is easier to watch porn on their phone, with no parental control tools installed, than it is on a computer that is closely watched by their parents.
Children in China show the most interest in adult content sites. Children in the UK, US and Russia visit such sites less often.
Popularity of the “Adult content” category in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control module statistics
According to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics, the adult content website www.xvideos[.]com is the most popular in all regions. If the Parental Control module is configured to block access to adult content sites, then a child’s attempt to visit this site will finish with a warning screen being displayed. It should be noted that Safe Kids, Kaspersky Lab’s new product, works on mobile devices as well:
Safe Kids notification on a mobile device
If you want to reliably safeguard your child from adult content, make sure you block this category in the parental control module.
Internet Communication media
67% of all visits were to websites belonging to the “Internet communication media” category, which includes social networks, instant messengers, chats and forums.
Unsurprisingly, social networks are the most popular sites with children throughout the world – these sites allow them to talk to their friends, keep a kind of diary, share photos and videos, as well as shop online, play games, and watch cartoons or films. As well as all that, there is a lot of content that children shouldn’t be seeing: on some social networks you can find pornography, purchase drugs.
The most frequently visited sites in this category are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. To a lesser extent children also visit Instagram and the web-based version of the WhatsApp messenger.
According to KSN data, over the last year and a half children and teenagers have been spending less time chatting with their friends online from their computers.
Popularity of the “Internet communication media” category worldwide, Jan 2015 – Apr 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
We presume that this is due to the growing popularity of mobile Internet. Today, mobile devices are being used more and more for online communications, especially in developed countries. This is beyond the scope of this analysis, however, as we are looking at the statistics of Parental Control module detections on computers; these statistics don’t take into account how many times a day children and teenagers visit their social media accounts from mobile devices. Also, IM services such as Telegram or Viber are primarily accessed from mobile devices. In other words, children, and especially teenagers, are far more active than these statistics suggest when it comes to both types of online communications (i.e. mobile- and computer-based).
Popularity of the “Internet communication media” category in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
Internet communication media are most popular in Mexico, Brazil, Russia and Italy, and least popular in China, Germany and the UK.
We presume that for China, this is due to the state’s Internet censorship practices, while in Germany and the UK it is related to the widespread use of mobile technologies and smartphones in the everyday lives of schoolchildren.
This is all well and good – technologies make our world more convenient, and talking to someone face-to-face on the other side of the planet can seem like magic! But any magic has a dark side to it. Child molesters, fraudsters, trolls, perverts and other nefarious characters can spoil the life of a child or teenager who doesn’t stick to the rules of conduct on social networks. Read more here about how children and teenagers should behave on the social networks to protect themselves from malicious users.
Children have always played games. However, in recent decades real-life games have been almost completely superseded by computer games.
Today’s computer games are products of advanced technologies; they are realistic, social, absorbing, spectacular creations by designers and script writers. It comes as a little surprise that gaming sites around the world come second in terms of popularity among children and teenagers.
Popularity of the “Internet communication media” category in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
Computer games are least popular in Japan, Italy and Mexico. However, in these countries there are different reasons for this. Game consoles such as Sony PlayStation and Nintendo are widespread in Japan, where they are manufactured. In Mexico and Italy, judging by our statistics, kids and teens simply prefer social networks to computer games.
Steam is one of the gaming sites most often visited by children and teenagers. It is in fact more than a mere online gaming store – it is a large gaming community where kids and teens can talk to fellow gamers, find new friends, read news and, naturally, purchase games and share their in-game achievements.
As can be seen in the statistics of websites visited by children, Minecraft is another gaming website that children and teens often visit. Minecraft can be seen as an educational (edutainment) game, and in some countries it is even part of the school curriculum, within the framework of the MinecraftEdu project.
The time that your child spends playing computer games needs to be regulated. Overindulging in games can lead to a dependence. This is especially relevant for so-called infinite games that are limited to one game plot and do not have a beginning or end. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) fall under this category. Cases are known when overuse of MMORPG has led to psychological harm, gaming addictions and even to death by exhaustion.
Parents should also take note of what games their child is playing, the age ratings and the contents of the game, as well as the kind of skills they develop.
Computer games are not bad, but it’s better for children to spend their time productively.
Alcohol, tobacco, narcotics
The popularity of websites in the “Alcohol, tobacco, narcotics” category came as a bit of a surprise. Children in Germany (22.79%) and the UK (25.37%) show most interest in this topic.
Popularity of the “Alcohol, tobacco and narcotics” category in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
However, a child can encounter this topic just about anywhere on the Internet. For example, in all types of teenager blogs it is not uncommon to see a picture of a girl with a bong, or pictures glorifying vodka.
Publications in social media promoting the consumption of alcohol, tobacco or drugs
Similar messages often occur on different entertainment sites, such as 9gag.
Images published on the website 9gag
In recent years, “legal highs” have become widespread, and can be easily purchased online. The authorities in different countries have trouble keeping up and block hundreds of new legal high websites that appear online every day. Social media also contains numerous offers to buy “legal” narcotics.
Online shop selling “legal highs”
Synthetic drugs are by no means legal, let alone safe. The effect of consuming “spice” and “salts” is unpredictable and can lead to serious harm.
The popularity of this category shows just how interested children are in online shopping.
Popularity of the “Electronic commerce” category in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
As we can see, children and teenagers in China, Japan and the US visit online shops more frequently than others. Judging by the list of websites most often reported by the Parental Control module, the most popular online shops are Taobao in China, Uniqlo in Japan, and Amazon in the US.
Software, audio and video
An interesting trend can be seen in the “Software, audio, video” category. Over the last year and a half, visits by children and teenagers to visit websites where they can download or watch films, cartoons or listen to music have doubled.
Popularity of the “Software, audio, video” category in different countries, January 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
On the face of it, this website category doesn’t seem to be a big deal. However, you shouldn’t forget about illegal software and malware – it may not hurt your child, but could cause quite a bit of damage to your computer.
Popularity of the “Software, audio, video” category in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
Children in Japan watch cartoons and listen to music online more often than their peers in other countries. The figures for Russia and Mexico are the lowest. In Russia, this may be due to the fact that most young users listen to music on the VKontakte social network.
According to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics, YouTube is the most popular website in this category.
The popularity of certain types of websites among children in different countries could be linked to each country’s cultural peculiarities and economic conditions.
If we look at the entire global picture, there is a downward trend in the popularity of Internet communication media among children and teenagers. The underlying reason is the increasing use of mobile technologies and the availability of smartphones in developed countries, the emergence of convenient mobile social media and Internet communication apps, and the fact that users can always stay online thanks to their mobile devices. However, in those countries where smartphones are less prevalent, children tend to use computers more often for online communications.
Interestingly, the lower the “Internet communication media” index is for a specific country, the more popular computer games are:
Popularity of the “Internet communication media” and “Computer games” categories in different countries, April 2015 – April 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control statistics
It’s interesting to see that children are becoming increasingly self-sufficient online: they choose which music they want to listen to, which films or cartoons they watch, and which products they want to – possibly – purchase.
Self-reliance is a positive trait for your child, but you still need to keep tabs on what they are doing online, just like in real life. Parental control software may just be an aid to safeguard your child from undesirable content, but it could well come in very handy – so don’t just dismiss it out of hand. For example, Kaspersky Lab’s product Safe Kids not only blocks undesirable sites but also notifies the parents of any alarming search requests that a child makes, and about their activities on social media. Since Safe Kids operates on mobile devices as well, parents can also get information about where their child is.
For today’s children, and especially teenagers, the Internet is their natural habitat. We do everything we can to keep it safe.