Earlier this week AVG published its latest study on how technology is affecting childhood and I was intrigued by some of the results.
Online and offline merge for kids
It will like come as no surprise to parents that nearly all kids aged 6-9 (89%) are online. The Internet has become the de-facto place for adults to keep in touch but the study shows that kids are no longer meeting up in parks and playgrounds but instead in online virtual worlds and through apps.
Nearly half of kids aged 6-9 are actively involved with a virtual online world like WebkinzTM or Disney’s Club PenguinTM. These are secure, moderated environments for kids to begin understanding the web and the world around them, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We all know that kids are spending a lot of time online, but in the survey parents told us that 78% of their 6-9 year olds spend less that’s 5 hours per week, which is less than 45 minutes a day.
I think we can conclude from this stat that parents wish kids only spent 45 minutes per day online or that parents are just not clued in enough to understand what online really means.
When you think about all the devices that are connected in a house- laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone, games console, DVD player, TV… the list is endless. AVG’s research shows that all the time kids spend online is at a cost of real world skills.
I was surprised to read that more kids can now play a basic computer game (66%) than ride a bike (58%) or that 47% of kids can navigate a smartphone or tablet while only 38% can write their full name.
Another statistic we learned from the study is that only 1 in 4 children know what to do in an emergency. This is shocking as any member of the emergency services will tell you that our kids need to have a basic understanding of who to call and what to do.
These digital skills in and of themselves are not a bad thing, but a different type of upbringing requires a different type of parenting. And it’s this balance that I am worried about.
When it comes to the web, parents still don’t get it.
AVG’s research has clearly established that kids are spending time online. It also shows that the skills that they are learning online are replacing real life skills like riding a bike.
Parents aren’t making that same jump.
While most mothers wouldn’t dream of sending their kids out to play without first teaching them life skills like road safety and not to talk to strangers, they’re not giving their kids the same guidance online.
64% of mothers believe they are using parental controls on their Internet enabled devices. A recent Ofcom study suggests that in reality this is closer to 43% yet when we asked parents nearly two-thirds said they did.
My concern here is that parent think they have implemented something and their kids are safe yet in reality they may have just done one small thing like switching on ‘Safesearch’ which does help but cannot really be considered an comprehensive solution to a child’s safety online.
With kids spending so much time online it is extremely important for parents to step up and learn how to protect their kids in a robust way.
But the problem runs deeper than that. Parents are fundamentally misunderstanding what it means to be growing up as a kid in the information age. Our kids are growing up in an age where the Internet is the be-all and the end-all and parents are equipping them as well as we could.
80% of mothers with kids under five have uploaded images of their child to the Internet. Most of us adults might have a digital footprint going back 15 or even 20 years but now imagine having one from before birth. The digital presence of our kids online will be there forever, isn’t it time we started thinking twice before deciding what to upload about them?
And then there’s the issue of identity. With 2.5 billion people online already and the name number set to join in the next five years, the Internet is set to become a hugely crowded environment.
Just as you would give your child the best start in life by selecting a good school or opening a trust fund, there are steps you can take as a parent to secure your child’s digital future.
If you’re a parent of a young child, here are my Parenting 2.0 tips for you:
Tips for Parents
Get the right tools for the job:
You wouldn’t give your kid a bicycle and no crash helmet, don’t get them a tablet without protecting them with parental controls. For young kids on tablet there are free solutions like AVG’s Family Center app.
For older kids who can have a bit for freedom online, full parental suites like AVG Family Safety allow you to set the protection levels to those that suit you and your family.
Register a web domain:
Give your kid a leg-up by registering a web address years before they need it. It won’t cost you much but you can ensure that they own that property when it is important. Who know, your kid might be the next president or prime minister and they will thank you for it.
Be careful about what you’re posting online:
This applies to all adults just as much as it does to moms and dads; be careful what you share online. When things are on the Internet it can be very difficult, or even impossible to make them disappear. By all means share with your loved ones, but consider doing so privately and away from the public eye.