Can parents check the contents of their child’s phone without permission? DNA’s survey reveals contradictory attitudes

Finnish parents have divided opinions on the moral right to inspect the contents of their child’s phone, DNA’s School Survey 2023 shows. Four out of five parents of children aged 5 to 12 consider it at least somewhat appropriate for a parent to inspect the contents of their child’s phone, even without their permission, despite the fact children have the same constitutional right to secrecy of correspondence as adults. At the same time, parents find it increasingly important to respect their children’s online privacy. According to DNA Store CEO Sami Aavikko, the solution is to prevent children from being subjected to harmful content preemptively through data security measures.

On the question of whether parents have the right and responsibility to inspect the contents of their child’s phone, even without their permission, almost half (47%) of parents of children aged 5 to 12 who responded to the School Survey were in strong agreement and 80% were somewhat in agreement. Only 3% strongly disagreed that they had the right to access their child’s phone without permission. Of parents of children aged 13 to 16, only 22% were strongly in agreement and 40% were somewhat in agreement.

According to the survey, parents of children aged 5 to 12 want to know what their child posts on social media (80% in agreement), as well as what chat groups their child participates in and what kinds of conversations take place in those groups (83% in agreement). These results seem to be backgrounded by concerns that children could be visiting websites or communicating with contacts that subject them to harmful content, such as sex, violence or drugs. Almost two thirds of parents of children aged 5 to 12 consider these to be risks.

Data security preserves secrecy of correspondence

According to DNA’s Sami Aavikko, the risks are real and parents’ concerns are understandable. However, the constitution grants the rights to secrecy of confidential communications and secrecy of correspondence to children just as it does to adults.

“Before getting your child a phone, it is worth discussing some ground rules with them. But how should a parent proceed if they become concerned about the content their child is spending time with? What should a child do if they are approached by a stranger online? There are many ways to look after the well-being of children and assuage your own justified concerns. One of the most effective solutions is to narrow down the child’s digital environment to something safer using preemptive data security measures”, Aavikko says.

“By ensuring their child’s smart device is secure, for example, by using a separate comprehensive service, parents won’t be put into situations where they feel they need to break secrecy of correspondence. According to the survey, more and more parents of children aged 5 to 12 have found a working solution by blocking certain apps and websites on their child’s smart device. This is one of the most used features in families with children over the past four years, alongside location sharing”, Aavikko explains.

Parents have a strong desire to respect their child’s privacy

Despite the common temptation to inspect the contents of their child’s phone, the majority of parents seem to have a principled desire to respect their child’s online privacy. According to the survey, 80% of parents of children aged 13 to 16 consider this right to privacy important, representing an increase of 8 percentage points from the previous year. Of parents of children aged 5 to 12, approximately two in three (65%) consider it important to respect their child’s privacy, which represents an increase of 6 percentage points from the previous year.

“The results show that, at least in principle, parents want to respect their children’s privacy. However, it seems that, when faced with the realities of everyday life, many parents, especially of primary-school-aged children, want to know what’s on their child’s phone. The situation definitely isn’t easy on parents, who want to be worthy of their child’s trust but also struggle with worries about their well-being and safety”, Aavikko says.

“Making sure the right level of data security is in place goes a long way. When you narrow down the risks with well-defined blocks and limitations before the child even starts using the smart device, parents can be more confident that their child is not subjected to harmful content or contacts. For example, DNA Digiturva allows you to easily and comprehensively counter various data security threats and protect devices, personal information and online activity with one service. We also shouldn’t forget about the most important thing parents can do: have open and constructive conversations with their children about why safety measures are needed”, Aavikko says.

DNA’s annual School Survey focuses on factors involved in the phone use and phone purchases of school-aged children and young people. The survey has been carried out annually for over a decade. The target group of the School Survey primarily consists of the parents of children aged 5 to 12 and, secondarily, parents of children aged 13 to 16. The survey was conducted by Nepa Insight Oy. This year, a total of 1,009 parents/guardians of children aged 5 to 16 participated in the survey. The survey was conducted in February 2023 on Nepa’s online panel.

Media enquiries:
DNA Corporate Communications, tel. +358 (0)44 044 8000, communications@dna.fi 
CEO Sami Aavikko, DNA Store Ltd, tel. +358 (0)44 044 3069, sami.aavikko@dna.fi 

The survey report (in Finnish) is attached.



Sami Aavikko, CEO, DNA Store Ltd
Sami Aavikko, CEO, DNA Store Ltd



About DNA Oyj

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DNA Store is Finland’s most extensive retailer of mobile phones, other mobile devices and mobile subscriptions, with a chain of approximately 60 outlets. DNA Store’s offering also includes TV and broadband services and related devices. The chain is part of the DNA Group, whose total revenues were EUR 997 million in 2022. DNA has 3.6 million subscriptions in its fixed and mobile communications networks. For more information, visit www.dna.fi or follow us on Twitter @DNA_fi and Facebook.

DNA is one of the leading telecommunications companies in Finland. Our purpose is to connect you to what matters most. We offer connections, services and devices for homes and workplaces, contributing to the digitalisation of society. Already for years, DNA customers have been among the world leaders in mobile data usage. DNA has about 3.6 million subscriptions in its fixed and mobile communications networks. The company has been awarded numerous times as an excellent employer and family-friendly workplace. In 2022, our total revenue was EUR 997 million and we employ about 1,700 people around Finland. DNA is a part of Telenor Group, a leading telecommunications company across the Nordics. More information: www.dna.fi, Twitter @DNA_fi, Facebook @DNA.fi and LinkedIn @DNA-Oyj.

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