As the latest sales figures for the Christmas shopping frenzy begin being released, it’s no surprise that technological gadgets are leading the charge.
It is reported that Microsoft sold 364,000 Xbox Ones while Sony sold 530,000 PS4s in the UK in the lead up to Christmas. The sale of digital games (which includes mobile gaming, PC and console downloads) is said to have grown by 16.4% taking it to a value of £1.18 billion and video games have also grown in the UK by 6.6% overall in 2013.
However, it is the ‘tablet revolution’ which makes the most striking impact on our engagement with the online world. Post Christmas sales figures estimate that 12-13 million units were sold in the UK which means that now over half of the UK population now owns or has access to a tablet. This huge leap has been fuelled by the emergence of retailer branded tablets (from the likes of Argos and Tesco) which are available at a much cheaper price than the market leading iPad – making tablets more financially accessible to more people.
The BBC recently reported that over the Christmas period, viewing of their iPlayer service saw mobile devices overtake computers for the first time - with access to the internet now so readily available it’s easy to understand why.
So where does e-safety come into all of this?
I spoke to colleagues, family and friends in the lead up to Christmas and found that the youngest request for a tablet came from 7 year olds – and some of them were getting their wish. Of course iPhones, laptops and consoles were also popular across all ages too.
So Christmas morning comes and the excited child (or indeed adult!) opens up the tiny box sitting under the tree to reveal the shiny new tablet and they are away - with full access to the internet. But how many of the parents set up filters, or activated parental controls before they wrapped the gift? I suspect far fewer than were prepared to admit.
It is this freedom to roam the internet, warts-n-all, that adds weight to the argument for education over prohibition when it comes to e-safety. It’s all very well having filters on school systems and parental controls on PCs at home, but with so many more children now having the world at their fingertips they not only have the ability to access the wealth of information available online but also can potentially become susceptible to the dangers that the environment offers too.