More than half (53%) of parents admit to their children helping them with tasks online, according to a nationwide survey conducted by Natterhub.
Analysing responses from over 1,000 parents about the internet habits of their children, respondents admitted to often needing assistance with things like removing a virtual Zoom background, setting reminders on Amazon Echo and creating Spotify playlists.
Children today have never known life without the internet, and it seems they are becoming increasingly fluent when it comes to navigating the online world. According to the survey, 87% of school-age kids are using the internet for a range of purposes, while over 16% of children between the ages of 5–7 have already sent an email, and more than 11% have experience using live chat.
Over a third of primary school children also reported using the internet to share content, with 34% using it to send photos to family and friends, 50% using it for video calls, and 34% for music streaming services such as iTunes and Spotify.
The survey has shown that before they even reach secondary school, 23% of children aged 8–11 have used a photo editing app, and as many as one in 10 have subscribed to an online club or service.
The numbers are slightly smaller for children aged 5–7, with 9% claiming to have edited a photo via an app and 6% saying they have subscribed to a club or service.
The survey also asked parents to list some of the most surprising things their children have got up to online. Here are the most common:
1. Sharing embarrassing photos
Almost a quarter of kids aged 5–7, and 42% of those aged 8–11, have sent a photo or video online to family and friends. One parent talked of their horror when they discovered their child had recorded them snoring on the sofa before sharing the video to a parent WhatsApp group, along with the accompanying comment: “even with a bad chest, there is enough oxygen to make this noise”.
2. Buying things they shouldn’t
Another respondent claimed their child had added £16,000 of products to their Amazon basket, but that they had fortunately disabled the one-click purchasing function. While 79% of parents said they had engaged parental locks and control settings, the survey suggests that some children know how to bypass these measures. Another parent mentioned that their child had bought £130 worth of games after hacking their device, for example.
Worryingly, 10% of parents surveyed said they do not currently use any protective tools at all.
3. Using social media
According to the results, 7% of children aged 8–11 have viewed social media posts, along with 4% of those aged 5–7 – despite the minimum age for any social media account being set at 13 years old.
4. Sending emails
While most children are still learning how to read and write to curriculum-aligned standards at school, 36% of children aged 8–11 have sent an email, along with 16% of 5–7 year old kids. One parent mentioned how their child had emailed a newspaper to complain about an article on a celebrity that didn’t mention they were home-schooled. The newspaper later asked the child to write an article about home schooling, and the first instance of the parent becoming aware of the request came after the article was published.
“As a result of growing up in the digital age, children are becoming increasingly advanced at using technology. This is generally positive and vital for their future, but at the same time we need to be aware that it is likely that their technological skills are advancing faster than their social and emotional maturity,” said Manjit Sareen, co-founder and CEO of Natterhub and parent of two boys.
“We know that parents are using lots of different parental locks and settings to try and protect their children online, but children today are digital natives. Being born in the millennium, they have grown up with the internet at their fingertips and so in some cases they have better technical skills than adults.”
It’s concerning that just 27% of respondents reported feeling completely confident that their child is safe when using the internet, suggesting that being digitally-savvy is more important than ever.
Caroline Allams, co-founder, parent and CCO of Natterhub, commented: “In an increasingly digital world, it is not enough for children to know only how to use technology in a physical way. Children also need to know how to understand how to use the internet appropriately if they are to navigate their digital lives safely and thrive online.
“Children need to know how to be savvy and sceptical when using the internet…,” added Allams.