A recent study by AVG Technologies—a provider of Internet and mobile security, privacy, and optimization—revealed that kids are more comfortable with technology than four years ago, there are more kids using digital devices, and kids are increasing in screen smarts, but declining in street smarts.
Major moments in a child’s life, such as the first time they ride a bike, appear to be increasingly superseded by digital coming-of-age capabilities like operating a smartphone or opening a web browser. This digital immersion is charted in the latest Digital Diaries study by AVG Technologies, the provider of Internet and mobile security, privacy, and optimization to 172 million active users, which interviewed more than 5,000 mothers across 10 countries about how their children use the Internet and smart devices.
The research reveals that by the age of 3-5, more children are able play a computer game (66 percent) or navigate a smartphone (47 percent) than tie their shoes (14 percent) or swim unaided (23 percent). AVG’s Digital Diaries research was first undertaken four years ago when it surveyed mothers of children aged 0-9 years old on the impact of technology in family life. With 59 percent of households having three or more connected devices, according to AVG research, it may come as no surprise that children of this age are extremely digitally capable.
"This research shows us that knowing how to use digital devices is almost a birthright now. The challenge parents and society face, augmented by security and privacy technologies, is where this goes next. It's similar when teaching a child to read. Learning to read is the first challenge, but it is what you do with that skill that determines its value and risks," said Chris Brauer, Ph.D., director of innovation in the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. "Like it or not, parents have a huge responsibility to educate their children in responsible and productive use of digital technologies. This research highlights the privacy and security considerations for interconnected homes but also the need to promote balanced lifestyles and that digital literacy is as much about use as access."
Some key findings from the research include:
0-2 years: ‘Sharenting’ Trumps Privacy
Despite the ongoing public debate around online privacy, more parents than ever are gifting their children with a digital footprint before they can walk, talk, or are even born.
- More than four-fifths (81 percent) of the mothers questioned admitted to uploading photos of their child online, with the majority of photos loaded before a child’s first birthday (62 percent) and almost one-third (30 percent) during the prenatal stage.
- ‘Sharenting’, where parents publicly share their children’s progress online, was mainly for friends and family (80 percent)—although a quarter (25 percent) do it purely to show off their child.
3-5 years: More Screen Smart than Street Smart?
With children increasingly immersed in the digital world from birth, the study highlighted the growing dominance of technology-related life skills over more traditional or practical skills.
- A testament to the rising role of mobile devices in our children’s lives, 57 percent can also operate at least one app on a smartphone or tablet—an increase of 38 percent since the same question was asked four years ago.
6-9 years: Blurring Real and Virtual Worlds
By the age of 6-9, the Internet appears to have become deeply engrained in our children’s social lives, eliciting mixed responses from parents.
- Of the 89 percent of this age group using the Internet, almost half (46 percent) are playing in a kid’s virtual world such as Webkinz™ or Club Penguin™ and almost one-fifth (16 percent) are using Facebook.
- Less than 1 in 10 mothers (9 percent) viewed these ‘digital playgrounds’ as hindering their child’s social skills, but nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) were aware their children had experienced aggressive behavior online in the last year.
“Introduced to this world with a fanfare of social media activity and, by the age of a few months, pacified with a device, our children are learning about life literally through a screen. But how often are parents taking the time to consider the short and long term implications of raising a family in this connected world? Already there are indications of unpleasant behavior that can lead to cyber bullying at this young age, even within controlled kid’s environments, and the step-up to a much more open network like Facebook is massive,” said Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist at AVG Technologies. “Parents can’t afford to become complacent as children of this age are not emotionally equipped to handle all online experiences. Parents providing them access to connected devices—that includes phones, tablets, game consoles, and anything else that connects to the internet—must take responsibility for their safety and privacy.”
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