Anyone who is raising kids will know just how much they love to play with PCs, tablets and mobile phones. From an increasingly early age, our kids are becoming exposed to the internet, and both the wonders and less appropriate content that it hosts.
When you sit and think about it, over recent years almost every aspect of our daily lives has, in some part, been touched by online technology and our growing need to stay ‘connected’ at all times, and the same goes for our children.
But while for many of us the internet is something we have learnt to love, for the majority of today’s children maneuvering the online world is merely business as usual. While it’s difficult to speculate about the long term impact the Internet will have on the next generation we wanted to identify how it is impacting parents’ relationships with their children here and now.
What the research tells us
The latest installment of our AVG Digital Diaries research series, which was conducted with over 600 UK parents, does exactly this. It reveals that:
- Four out of every five (79%) parents blame the internet for forcing them to discuss the facts of life with their children at a much younger age, with the majority (62%) broaching such conversations even earlier – before their child’s 10th birthday.
- Six out of 10 (58%) cited porn as the most uncomfortable discussion to have with their kids, while only a quarter (19%) of parents said they would feel uncomfortable discussing sex with their child.
- Over half (56%) admitted that by 12 years old their child knows more about the internet than they do, while two fifths (41%) admitted that this happens by the time their child is 10 years old.
Advice: Managing your child’s online journey
The worrying repercussion of this it that, although kids are ‘technically’ mature enough to access this information, they have not developed the equivalent intellectual – or emotional – maturity necessary to make the right decisions. The underlying result of this is that teens are often forced into complex social situations online that require adult reasoning well before they’re ready. In fact, as part of the research we interviewed children to assess their digital maturity and found that seven in 10 (70%) did not believe there were dangers or were unsure of the dangers facing them online.
With the new IT curriculum due to come into effect in September – which will only serve to increase the ‘online knowledge gap’ between parents and children – what can parents do to keep on top of their child’s digital footprint in today’s fast paced digital world?
- Approach the internet as an extension of your child’s real world:You would watch your child play a football game and would ask how an afternoon in the park went, so engage with your child’s online activity from a young age. Ask what they are doing online, who they are speaking with and what social media sites they are using.
- Talk to your child about staying safe online: If you only take one thing from this article, please take this: talking about online safety with your children is essential. Address the pros and cons of owning a device and outline the responsibility they must show in order to own such an advanced ‘toy’. After all, if you openly share your knowledge and insights they’re more likely to share theirs!
- Become an expert: There are plenty of resources available to help you make sense of your child’s online world. It’s important that both you and your child understand the dangers facing them online so why not try reading our new ‘click-or-tell’ ebook – Magda & Mo – to your kids, or swot up yourselves with my recent book, ‘One Parent to Another’. ChildNet International (www.childnet.com) is also always a good place to start.