A RESEARCHER is calling on parents to do more to keep their children safe online.

Bex Lewis, a research fellow at Durham University, says parents need to understand the realities of the internet to help their children use digital technology responsibly and safely.

Her warning comes as a new survey suggests many parents are out of touch with the particular dangers of using tablets and smartphones.

Dr Lewis, whose new book Raising Children in a Digital Age will be published next week (Friday, February 21), said: “In the same way as you’re beside your child when they learn to crawl, walk and ride a bike, right up to when they learn to drive, you have to teach them to respect the digital environment, look for the opportunities and be aware of the potential dangers.

“Talk to them about what they are seeing and experiencing and give them freedom within boundaries as you would in any other space.”

Meanwhile, a new Populus poll commissioned by BBC Learning for Safer Internet Day suggests almost a fifth of children who use tablets or smartphones have been upset by something they have seen on them in the last year – double the figure that parents thought.

Half of these were worried by sexual content or “rude things” and most children are using their tablets or smartphones while they are alone.