More children aged between three and five can play a computer game or navigate a smartphone than tie their shoes or swim unaided, according to research into children’s digital skills by AVG Technologies.
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The supplier’s AVG Digital Diaries research revealed that 66% of children aged between three and five are able to play a computer game and 47% can navigate a smartphone, yet only 14% can tie their shoes and just 23% can swim unaided.
The study interviewed more than 6,000 mothers across 10 countries about how their children use the internet and smart devices.
"This research shows us that knowing how to use digital devices is almost a birthright now," said Chris Brauer, director of innovation in the institute of management studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.
"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."
Using the internet responsibly
Brauer said parents have a responsibility to educate their children in the responsible and productive use of digital technologies.
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“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," he said.
Further research from AVG Technologies found that 59% of households have three or more connected devices, making it no surprise for how digitally capable some young children may be.
Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist at AVG Technologies, said: “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 cyber bullying at this young age, even within controlled kids' environments, and the step up to a much more open network like Facebook is massive.”
Furthermore, the research found that almost half (46%) of six-to-nine year olds play in a virtual world such as Webkinz or Club Penguin. Almost one-fifth of this age group (16%) are using Facebook.
Safety and privacy considerations
Only 9% of mothers viewed such "digital playgrounds" as hindering their child’s social skills, and 19% said they were aware of aggressive behaviour that their child had encountered online in the last year.
66% of children aged between three and five are able to play a computer game and 47% can navigate a smartphone, yet only 14% can tie their shoes and just 23% can swim unaided
AVG Digital Diaries research
Over half (57%) of children aged between three and five can operate at least one app on a smartphone or tablet, according the findings. This is an increase of 38% since the same question was asked four years ago.
When questioned about putting pictures of their children online, 81% of those with children under two admitted to uploading images, with 62% saying they uploaded the images before their child’s first birthday. Some 30% admitted to uploaded photos during pregnancy.
“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, games consoles and anything else that connects to the internet – must take responsibility for their safety and privacy,” said Anscombe.