By the time they are 11-years-old most kids have reached “digital maturity” or “digital adulthood”.

Instead of spending time on kids’ specific websites, the majority of pre-teens are now on mainstream, adult social networks like Facebook and Twitter, according to AVG’s latest stage of our on-going ‘Digital Diaries’ study.

This time around we surveyed 4000 parents with children aged 10-13. Those parents admitted that 58% of their kids had access to a ‘mainstream’ social network, such as Facebook or Twitter, or regional specific sites like the Spanish Tuenti.

In Spain and Italy most are on at age 10, in the US, US, UK, Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand it is 11, while in Germany most ‘graduate’ to these sites at 12 years old.

Remember that we asked parents, so they are fully aware that their kids’ are on these sites.

So what are they doing to monitor their children’s behavior on there?  Well 60% are looking at their PCs. Two-thirds of parents claim to know their kids’ passwords and 6/10 access their children’s computers while they are not on them.

However, this still leaves 40% of parents who are not checking their kids’ behavior at all and how effective is monitoring activity on a PC anyway. Our fourth Digital Diaries study also shows that kids are increasingly able to circumvent parental supervision.

A majority of 10-13 year old kids in every country except New Zealand and (significantly) Japan have their own PC. In the UK, most 10-13 year olds have the PC in the privacy of their own bedroom, so away from parental eyes. Australia is the one country where it is more likely to be in the living room.

Not only do many 10-13 year olds go online in their bedrooms, a significant number are using social media on their phones – often outside of the family home.  44% of 10-13 year olds access social networks from their phones.   In the United States, the figure is 56%.

So what should parents do about this?  First of all, the issue of 11 year olds being on these sites is certainly debatable, but it is commendable that parents are reasonably well informed about their children’s web-surfing habits.

At the same time, with more kids owning smartphones, it is becoming more difficult for a parent to be 100% certain about what their children are doing online.

As a result there really is no substitute for education and discussing both the benefits and dangers of the online world with children.

The increased use of smartphones by pre-teens and early-teens also means parents need to tell their children about the dangers of clicking on shared links and downloading unchecked files and apps on their phones. While most people understand the need for anti-virus software on their PCs, there is still some complacency when it comes to smartphones.

Finally, we would definitely recommend parents install software such as our Mobilation security product for Android and Windows phones, which has a range of functions from being able to locate the phone at any one time to checking websites, emails and SMS messages for malware.

We also want to find out how you deal with this situation? Do you check up on your kids? Do they understand why? Join in the debate here

 

NB. We will be releasing more findings from our latest Digital Diaries report in the coming weeks, but if you want to find out more about our Digital Diaries project and the previous stages then go to avgdigitaldiaries.tumblr.com.   And also be sure to check out the video we’ve made to illustrate the results when we put it online soon.

Note – the survey was conducted by research agency ResearchNow on behalf of AVG and questioned 4000 parents with children aged 10-13 years old in the USA, Canada, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

What is Digital Diaries?  It is an on-going piece of research, that we conduct across ten countries, where we look at how technology is fundamentally changing the nature of childhood (see http://avgdigitaldiaries.com for previous results).

Every stage of the research involves a different age group and previous reports have looked at everything from how a child has a digital footprint from six months old, to how toddlers are more likely to be able to play a computer game to ride a bike.