'Learn IT', Byron warns parents

Britain's parents are cyber slackers who need to improve their IT knowledge if they are to

Britain's parents are cyber slackers who need to improve their IT knowledge if they are to help their children, claimed a report by the Byron Review today. The report says ICT and internet skills for parents, particularly among the socially or financially disadvantaged, must improve if the government's digital agenda is to be kept.

An organisation called UK Online Centres, which helped compile the information used in the report, welcomed the conclusions about British children's use of new technologies.

UK Online Centres runs a network of computer access and support centres across England. In helping compile the research for The Byron Review, it found that while three quarters of parents from lower socio-economic groups know their children use the internet regularly, 50 per cent cannot help or supervise with surfing.

This is not an option for a 21st Century parent argued Helen Milner, MD of UK Online Centres. Parenting requires skills, she said. "It's not just about looking after your children in the real world - you've got to look after them in the virtual world too."

The Byron Review ignored emotive issues like internet safety and video game violence, she explained, as it was more interested in practical recommendations for parents. Empowering parents with information and skills could enable families to make the most of the benefits of technology, without falling foul of its pitfalls. She claimed.

"It's vital we recognise the digital divide as more than a generation gap between parents and their digital-native children. The digital divide is also linked to socio-economic status, and those families left on the wrong side are increasingly missing out on the practical, financial and educational opportunities ICT and internet skills provide," said Milner.

Milner claimed her organisation's research showed 75 per cent of socially excluded people are also digitally excluded, with poorer parents three times more likely to be off-line.

"We must make sure we don't leave behind the families with potentially most to gain from technology, and I strongly support the Review's emphasis on improved education and information for parents and children," said Milner.

"[it's] not just about keeping children safe online, it means helping with homework research, saving time, money and hassle with online transactions, instant access to information, even increased employment or promotion prospects."

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