Revealed: The secret life of six-year-olds online

To mark Safer Internet Day, Internet Matters reveals the eye-opening online habits of a six-year-old – as digitally advanced today as 10-year-olds were just three years ago

  • 55% increase in children aged six browsing the internet
  • 1 in 3 using instant messaging services like WhatsApp – and 44% going online in their bedrooms
  • Parents urged to think about online safety from the very moment their children start using a tablet or smartphone

 -EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 February 7, 2017-

February 7, 2017. They are using social media, streaming content, browsing the internet unsupervised in their bedrooms – and even uploading their own videos.

While this sounds like it could be the everyday habits of a teenager, new research shows it is in fact the digital life of many six-year-olds across Britain.

Nearly half of six-year-olds are browsing the internet, three quarters (75%) play games individually on a tablet or a smartphone – yet 44% of kids of that age are using the internet in their bedrooms and 41% at home without supervision.

Internet Matters has to mark Safer Internet Day on February 7 and to urge parents to make it a priority at the earliest age to take action to keep their children safe online.

Such is the pace of change in technology, the survey of 1,500 parents* shows how six-year-olds are now as digitally-advanced today as 10-year-olds were three years ago.

Nearly half (48%) of six-year-olds have used the internet for general browsing – which is more than the number of 10-year-olds three years ago (46%), and 32% of children aged six used instant messaging, compared to 31% of 10-year-olds in 2013.

Figures also showed of six-year-olds:

  • 44% going online in their bedrooms, up from 27% in 2013.
  • 26% using the web for social media, compared to 19% in 2013.
  • 74% doing school work on the internet at home, up from 67%.
  • Nearly 3-in-5 (58%) streaming video from sites like YouTube – a 32% increase in 3 years (44% in 2013).
  • 47% using or downloading apps from the App Store or Google Play, up from 33% in 2013, an increase of 42% in three years.
  • Nearly half (48%) using the internet for general browsing, up from 31% in 2013.
  • Streaming TV or live content on sites like BBC iPlayer and Netflix are showing the same trend, up from less than a third (30%) in 2013, to just under half (47%) in 2016, a 57% increase.
  • 27% going online outside the home/on the go/at a friend’s house – up from 17%

Worryingly, the number of parents saying they are always present to supervise their child aged six when they are online, using computer devices, has gone down in the last three years from 53% to 43%.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters, said: “While the statistics around six-year-olds and their internet habits might be surprising to some, it shows the rapid pace of change in technology and how vital it is for parents to both set up devices safely and understand some of the risks involved when a child goes online.

“While we want to encourage children to explore and enjoy technology throughout their childhood, we also want to make sure parents are on top of exactly what they need to be doing to ensure they are doing it safely, from the very first point they are able to pick up a device, and regularly talking to young children about what they should to do in certain situations is vital.

“Issues that a six-year-old may encounter can range from stranger danger to viewing inappropriate content such as violence or pornography, so it’s vital you have parental controls in place and to ensure the websites and apps they are using are suitable for their age group.”

Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “This research shows just how quickly young children are advancing in the digital world. It also serves as a stark reminder why parents need to be extra vigilant and arm their children with the tools to stay safe online.
“As well as setting up the relevant parental controls, it’s important to make sure you set boundaries when it comes to how your children use the internet at home.”

This year’s Safer Internet Day is focused on a combined effort to promote the positive role the internet can play in young people’s lives, under the banner ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’.

For more information on how to keep your children safe online and step-by-step guidance go to For more information on how to get involved with Safer Internet Day go to

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