Dr Chris Brauer is a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths, University of London and a researcher contributing to the AVG Digital Diaries. He has a 2-year-old boy that likes to play IHearEwe on Dad’s iPhone.
AVG recently released the findings from the third anniversary of their seminal Digital Diaries research into the digital behaviors and habits of children aged nine and under. There are a number of eye-catching statistics but there are also some broader indicative themes and trends.
Live in the present
The research presents a startling contrast between children’s ability to do traditional and basic activities and their digital literacy levels.
Only 23% of kids aged 3-5 years can swim unaided, 14% can tie their shoes, 13% know their parents phone number, and 25% know what to do in an emergency. But 57% can operate at least one app on a smartphone, 66% can play a basic computer game, and 70% can operate a mouse.
The point is it takes time for children to learn these traditional skills, and that means ensuring balance in the household – and that being connected to the collective intelligence of the Internet doesn’t need to mean getting disconnected from family values and healthy lifestyles.
Focusing on digital interventions in the home can feel like a race against progress but being mindful and focused on what really matters to your family can put the life back into digital life.
Cross the digital divide
This research marks a generational shift in digital life.
The digital divide used to be between offline parents and their digital native kids. Now we have families where the parents are themselves early adopters and digital natives.
The divide is vanishing. Yet, the parental responsibilities for adopting appropriate technologies in the home and educating children about responsible use are more intense than ever.
Parents can’t afford to be standing on the other side of the divide or they increase risks of children getting exposed to bullying, teasing, grooming, or other aggressive behaviors online.
“Sharent” by example
Just like any other aspect of parenting, you can’t underestimate the critical importance of leading by example.
Consider how much time you spend looking or playing on your phone in front of your kids. Children want to explore the potentials and possibilities of smartphones and tablets partly because they see how much time and energy their parents invest in these devices.
The research shows 80% of mothers have uploaded photos of their children online but only 9% do it for their child to look back on.
Parents are making choices for their children but also impacting their digital behaviors. The privacy considerations and approaches they employ in ‘Sharenting’ are ones children will mimic.
Build a culture of trust in the home
All of these trends ultimately point at the need to develop a culture and environment of trust in the home.
Parents must place their trust in both their children and their technology while kids must trust their parents to guide them through the hazards of digital life.
Parents need to embrace, not run from, the inevitable dilemmas that come with parenting today’s connected children of all ages. Ground rules and parental controls provide the foundation but it is trust that knits the family together.