Digital Abilities Overtake Key Development Milestones for Today’s Connected Children

Here at Mojomums we went to a seminar with lots of bloggers to discuss internet safety for our children, here is some of the research that AVG Technologies have found and some of it is surprising and if I’m honest a bit scary too!

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 AVG Digital Diaries study by AVG Technologies, which interviewed over 6,000 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%) or navigate a smartphone (47%) than tie their shoes (14%) or swim unaided (23%). The 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% of households having three or more connected devices, 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 Dr Chris Brauer, 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.

  • Over four fifths (81%) 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%) and almost a third (30%) during the prenatal stage.
  • ‘Sharenting’, where parents publicly share their children’s progress online, was mainly for friends and family (80%) – although a quarter (25%) 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% can also operate at least one app on a smartphone or tablet – an increase of 38% since the same question was asked four years ago.

6-9 yearsBlurring 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% of this age group using the Internet, almost half (46%) are playing in a kid’s virtual world such as Webkinz™ or Club Penguin™ and almost one fifth (16%) are using Facebook.
  • Less than one mother in ten (9%) viewed these ‘digital playgrounds’ as hindering their child’s social skills, but nearly one in five (19%) 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 behaviour that can lead to cyberbullying 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, 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.”

It was a great day out and some of our conversations asked some interestign and difficult questions such as; We may allow our children to join Facebook early as we “don’t see the harm” however what happens when our daughter’s join at 10 and say they are 13 (you have to be to build a profile on Facebook) and then they start posting pictures of themselves all dressed up and ready for a party and to the outside world these pictures are suddenly of a 16 year old and not a 13 year old child! This thought was suddenly a very scary one after all once you set up a Facebook account you can’t change your age.

When you let your child use your tablet have you turned off things like access to Netflix or is your child sitting there watching a horror film without you knowing! What about access to the cloud you may have at your home? Can they access your payment details and buy apps etc online? Can they access the internet?

There are lots of considerations and concerns around the internet, and what we allow our children to have access to, however no matter how careful we are they will still find things they aren’t supposed to, so as much as you need to think about security packages etc for your home internet and devices you need to think about common sense to. Can you restrict Ipad/device use to the downstairs of the house only or the living room so you are around to see what they are accessing? Do they wear headphones in the house? If so why? This is another great way to check wha tthey are doing on the tablet/phone. View browser history once in a while to see what is being accessed.

As things change, technology seems to play an even bigger part in our everyday lives. So although we can’t secure against everything we need to try to be sensible and be parents about the internet just as we are about everything else in our children’s lives. Not knowing isn’t an excuse as even if they do know more than us very quickly keeping an eye on things could stop them accessing something you really don’t want them to!

It is a minefield and it is worrying when things are changing and developing so fast, but keeping talking to our children and discussing things like accessing sites and explaining why we don’t want them on Facebook etc. Can help them realise we aren’t just trying to spoil their fun and if they do access something we don’t want them to seem, hopefully they can discuss it with us so we can talk frankly to them and address what has been seen rather than them worry about it or think these things are OK or normal.

I think the moral of the story is we can do everything we can to stop them accessing the big wide world, but they are going to find it eventually! So let’s try and make it as safe as possible and let’s keep talking to our children maybe we can all learn about this developing technology together!

If you have any tips on Internet safety or what you do in your house we’d love to here about it, please post below.


One Response to Digital Abilities Overtake Key Development Milestones for Today’s Connected Children

  1. Elizabeth Hannaby says:

    My son is aged 12, ever since getting a smartphone, which was when he was walking to school on his own, we have monitored his phone and laptop use. My partner receives any emails to his email address. Any photos he takes goes into our shared dropbox account. We run ESET security for ourselves aswell, on our laptops and phones and on his phone and his laptop, EVERY website is blocked unless we add it in to a list. Some people may think that is over the top but he is only 12 and the amount of adverts that come up that are inappropriate are unbelievable. I don’t want him to to see adverts for dating sites, betting sites etc etc , most stuff is unsolicited on the internet, it is all made for adults. As adults we have to step up and protect the young. If they see stuff too early it will warp their view of the world and towards women. And that is very concerning, especially as some parents do not do this, therefore putting their daughters and girls their sons know at risk. On his xbox everything is customised so he if wants to download something or play something above his age, we review it and then opt it in. It just takes a little bit of effort on our part. I know for a fact that a lot of his friends setup their own xbox and facebook accounts and lie about their age. Parents HAVE to step in.

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