Press Release

April 7, 2020
Digital Arts Inc.

Fact-finding survey regarding mobile phone/smartphone use by minors
Active communication with "internet friends" still common
Minors trust their own net literacy yet risk awareness low

More elementary students have second accounts, lowering of age continues
Guardians respect minors' independence, taking concrete measures an issue

Information security solution provider Digital Arts Inc. (headquartered in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan; CEO: Toshio Dogu; hereinafter referred to as "Digital Arts"; Code 2326) conducted its 13th fact-finding survey of 618 upper-elementary, junior high and high school students (aged 10 to 18 in both sexes) and 1,030 guardians of children aged 3 to 18 for total of 1,648 respondents who own mobile phone/smartphones across Japan, regarding the use and application of mobile phone/smartphones by minors.

Since the latter half of last year there were repeated cases of elementary and junior high school students being kidnapped by strangers they had met through social media. There was collective shock that minors got involved in crimes after becoming so close to these strangers via the internet, to the point that they would consider visiting the stranger's home, and there was increased attention to the fact that minors were being left so defenseless to the dangers of social media. As part of a plan to address this situation, national organizations including Japan's National Police Agency and local governments have taken some measures, and businesses have implemented activities to improve information literacy. These activities made the crime caused by minors' online communication well-known, and appears to have become a deterrent.

This fact-finding survey examined the percentage of minors who have smartphones, how they use them, the percentage who use filtering, also the state of minors' communication via the internet and how much guardians are aware of minors' mobile phone/smartphone use. In it, the following trends were seen.

Even with rise in awareness of internet communication, awareness of risks remains low
  • 40.1% of minors have friends that they only communicate with via the internet (internet friends)
    The percentage of minors who have internet friends was 40.1%, a 2.6% increase from last year.
  • 40.3% of minors have met or want to meet their internet friends. Of those, 60.7% trust these friends based on their internet conversations.
    The percentage of minors who have either met or have a desire to meet their internet friends was 40.3%, which was a 9.7% decrease from last year. Of those, 60.7% said the reason for this was that they felt that they could trust these friends based on their internet conversations.
  • Awareness of the dangers of kidnapping and selfie harm1 remains low
    To a question of whether they sensed that their child could be the target of an internet-based incident, 38.3% of guardians responded "Not especially," which was 9.6% lower than last year. To the same question about themselves, 42.1% of minors responded "Not especially," which was almost the same as last year. While there was a slight increase in the concerned parties' awareness of being the target of kidnapping or selfie harm incidents, for kidnapping 89.2% answered "Not especially", a 10% increase over last year, while for selfie harm "Not especially" was 92.9%, a 4.2% increase over last year. Based on these results it can be seen that overall awareness remains low.
  • The number of elementary school students with a secret account increased, while an overall age lowering was seen
    66.0% of high school-aged girls had a secret account, which was a 3.9% decrease from last year, while 35.0% of junior high school-aged girls had one, which was 6.7% fewer than last year.
    At the same time, the number of elementary school students with secret accounts was 32.0%, a 5.5% increase over last year.
State of social media use/dt>
  • State of social media use
    89.8% of minors used social media, and the most common use was for "Hobbies, Favorite artists, and Favorite things" at 59.8%.
Degree of use and filtering use on minors' mobile phone/smartphone
  • Minors' degree of smartphone possession and average time used was similar to last year
    Of minors who had some sort of mobile phone/smartphone, the percentage who had a smartphone was 93.7%, which was essentially the same as last year. The average time of use went down by 0.1 hours to 3.6 hours.
  • Filtering use by minors was 35.0%
    45.3% of minors answered that they had been told about the filtering settings when purchasing their mobile phone, which was 7.6% lower than last year.
    Although there is more awareness of and uneasiness about the dangers, the present use of filtering was 35%, a 5.0% decrease from last year.
Guardians' awareness of minors' mobile phone/smartphone use
  • Many guardians have a mobile phone/smartphone for their children to be able to get in contact
    69.5% of upper-elementary to high school students' guardians' purpose for having their children have a mobile phone/smartphone was "To be able to get in contact." This percentage was 59.7% for guardians of lower-grade elementary school students.
  • Many guardians realize the dangers of being in contact with strangers and mobile phone overuse
    Among guardians of upper-elementary to high school-aged students, the main cause of worries over student's internet use was "The danger of being in contact with strangers and getting involved in some incident" with 62.0% of answers. Next was "Damage to health via smartphone overuse" at 54.9%. "Decline in academic performance due to smartphone overuse" was next with 45.1%.
  • Although guardians are worried about mobile phone/smartphone overuse, only 30% of guardians were taking some kind of measure against it
    Guardians realize the need to limit their children's mobile phone/smartphone usage time, however only 24.1% responded that they "Limit usage time or applications to be used through filtering, etc.," while 28.5% said that they "Set rules for usage time but there are no penalties for breaking the rules," and 23.0% said they "Leave it up to the children to decide." This illustrates that many do not set clear, concrete standards, and that many guardians allow their children to use mobile phones essentially freely. Also, 40.7% responded that they "Talk to the child about social media, etc. more than once per month".
  • 44.7% of guardians have a designated device for their pre-school-aged child to use
    The percentage of guardians who have a designated device of some kind for their pre-school aged child to use was 44.7%. Also, 89.8% of guardians have experienced using a device to babysit a child, and 57.3% had an experience where their child used the device for a purpose the guardian had not expected.
Survey overview
Survey target: Boys and girls aged 10 to 18 who had some kind of mobile phone/smartphone and guardians with children between the ages of 3 and 18, nationwide
Survey period: February 21-25, 2020
Survey method: Internet survey
Valid responses:1,648 samples (618 minors, 1,030 guardians)
Conducting organization: Macromill Inc.

Awareness of risks of internet use has not risen. Taking concrete measures at home is an issue.

Around 90% of minors who have a mobile phone/smartphone use social media, and the number of minors who have friends that they only communicate with via the internet (internet friends) was similar to last year at around half.

Of these, around 40% say they have met or wish to meet their internet friends. In these cases, the minors are careful about their conversations in ways such as not blindly accepting information like pictures over the internet, however in cases where minors felt they could trust their internet friends based on online conversations about shared interests and the like, it was more likely for them to feel close to them and end up exchanging information. If a criminal were to skillfully play the part of internet friend, there would be a strong possibility of serious harm occurring.

At the same time, while guardians' awareness of the risks of internet use has increased more than last year, most minors felt that the possibility of themselves being involved in a kidnapping or selfie harm incident were low, seeming to underestimate the facts.
Many guardians do have worries about connections to strangers and mobile phone/smartphone overuse, but relatively few are taking concrete measures, such as using filtering or creating solid family rules, and while many do diligently talk to their children about social media use, many cases are seen of guardians trusting their children to some extent in this area.

Also, around half of guardians had a device like smartphone/tablet exclusively for pre-school-aged children's use2, and in addition to reasons like "to have a way to get in touch, a GPS, etc. to confirm child's safety/whereabouts," there were also many cases of guardians for whom it was used as a plaything, for educational purposes, and because it could benefit children for the future as they enter society. However, there were also many cases where guardians did not have extra time and used the device to babysit children, or cases where the child was left to themselves and used the device for a purpose the guardian had not expected.

As children's net literacy increases it is becoming more important for their guardians to watch over them more actively and be able to trust them. Perhaps for this reason, strong filtering that "blocks harmful content or limits use" has been decreasing as a trend year by year. However, the risks to children via the internet have not decreased at all, so to fully protect children, concrete measures are required.

The deciding factors for families to put concrete, effective measures in place is that children and guardians should talk about internet risks, and work together to decide rules for time limits and which websites are safe to browse. Guardians can then customize the devices by setting the filtering software's block features3 and time limiting features4 to functionally limit children's usage time, or allowing safe websites to be browsed. With this point, we at Digital Arts are trying to anticipate children's mobile phone/smartphone use and feel the need to improve product features in order to realize as secure and safe an environment as possible.

At Digital Arts, we want every child to be able to use the internet safely, we are committed to offering filtering software and improving features to support each family in this endeavor.

  1. 1 Concern over increasingly severe cases in which minors are tricked or coerced into taking nude photos of themselves and sending these by e-mail or the like, then having these photos used against them for blackmail or other purposes.
  2. 2 Smartphones (including ones with expired service plans) 22.9%, tablets 13.6%, flip phones 6.8%, video game devices capable of web browsing 1.5%
  3. 3 Digital Arts' family-oriented filtering product "i-FILTER" has a feature in which websites guardians do not wish to show to children can be blocked, in addition to a feature that allows children to petition guardians about the websites they wish to view. If the guardian grants permission, the website can be un-blocked.
  4. 4 Digital Arts' family-oriented filtering product "i-FILTER" has a feature in which internet use time can be limited and controlled based on the day of the week and time of day.
About family-oriented filtering product "i-FILTER"
"i-FILTER" is a family-oriented filtering software product recommended by the Japan's National PTA Council. It works to protect children by blocking high-risk websites that are widespread on the internet, before the fact. Websites inappropriate for browsing that are displayed simply by searching the keyword or link sources, or "websites that are displayed without intention" that have security issues can also be controlled. Many kinds of internet-connected devices are covered, both through the family-oriented software package "i-FILTER 6.0" and also through "i-FILTER for Multiple Devices" that works with smartphones, mobile phones, video game devices and internet-connected televisions in several operating systems.
About Digital Arts
Digital Arts Inc. is an information security manufacturer focused on developing security software for the web, e-mail and files.
Since the dawn of the internet era, we have been a pioneer in the industry, releasing the first web filtering software in 1998 to be produced in Japan which saw use around the world. With the knowledge we have built up since then, we offer cutting-edge information security products focused on information leaks and cyber attacks including targeted attack e-mails. Making full use of our advantages as a domestic manufacturer, we integrate our product planning, development, sales and support in Japan, and have Japan's largest web filtering database that acts as the underlying base for all of our products. Our technological knowhow has led us to hold patents in 27 countries and territories and to be well-regarded in the industry. Our extremely high level of customer satisfaction is evidenced by a 95% or more contract renewal rate. With web security software "i-FILTER" at the core, we offer "i-FILTER" for private and home use, e-mail security software "m-FILTER", and file encryption and tracing software "FinalCode" as part of our lineup for a one-stop web, e-mail and file security solution.
Our goal is to continue contributing to a more convenient, more comfortable and safer internet lifestyle. We want to continue to hold the trust of all our stakeholders as a company listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange as we grow moving forward.
  • * DIGITAL ARTS, i-FILTER, info board, ARS, Active Rating System, ACTIVE RATING, ZBRAIN, D-SPA, SP-Cache, NET FILTER, White Web, m-FILTER, m-FILTER MailFilter, m-FILTER Archive, m-FILTER Anti-Spam, m-FILTER File Scan, Mail Detox, FinalCode, i-FILTER, DigitalArts@Cloud, Chat@Cloud, D Alert, D Content, and related logos and icons are trademarks or registered trademarks of Digital Arts Inc.
  • * Other corporate and product names are the trademarks of their respective companies.

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