Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection


Parenting Digital Natives – the impact we have

Back in October the government published its annual report into Media Use and Attitudes – some data was quite surprising – but should it be – the writing has been on the wall for some time and this report evidences the digital changes in a new generation.

It does show the digital swing towards mobile – Smartphone ownership has increased among all children aged 5-15 (28% vs. 20% in 2011), primarily driven by a 21 percentage point increase among children aged 12-15 – 62% now own smart phone – a 50% increase year on year.

And the growth in tablets is also significant. Around one in seven (14%) of all children aged 5-15 use a tablet computer (such as an iPad) at home – whilst small it’s a threefold increase since last year –  and its being used for internet access not just for apps.

For the first time the report also looks at access to media among children aged 3-4 and we see that one in four regularly access the internet – sounds shocking but then I think how my own kids (four and six) are smartphone savvy – “they grow up quickly”

The section in the report though that drew my attention was the area on setting rules – as a parent is there some way to be responsible – a kind of best practice. But the data wasn’t as reassuring as I hoped. Parents can and do set rules but its impacting the way the kids think about the connected world – and children with rules are less likely to undertake some online activities.

“There are differences in the online activities undertaken at least weekly; children aged 5-15 with supervision rules are less likely than those without rules to undertake many activities:

• general surfing (45% vs. 51%),

• social networking (31% vs. 50%),

• watching or downloading videos made by the general public on sites like YouTube (31% vs. 40%),

• play/download music (25% vs. 38%),

• Instant Messaging (19% vs. 29%),

• watch or download music videos (19% vs. 28%),

• send or receive emails (19% vs. 27%),

• listen to radio over the internet (7% vs. 11%),

• make/receive telephone calls over the internet using services like Skype (6% vs. 11%),

• send or receive Twitter updates (3% vs. 7%),

• go to photo sharing websites (2% vs. 5%),

• buy things online (1% vs. 3%),

• sell things online (0% vs. 1%).

So kids with rules are less exploratory, not as social (email, social networking, VoIP calls) and consume less content (music, videos, photo’s) and not as aware of the commercial landscape.

As the report says

“There appears, therefore, to be a relationship between the presence or absence of rules relating to parental supervision and the ways in which the child accesses the internet at home and the activities undertaken online.”

Some other data:

“12-15s with rules about supervision are less likely to say they are very confident in several aspects of their internet use:

• using search engines (70% vs. 80%);

• finding what they want when they go online (53% vs. 69%);

• using the internet to do creative things (28% vs. 42%)

• judging whether a website is truthful (20% vs. 32%)

• feeling very confident as an internet user (55% vs. 69%).”

I spend a lot of time with my kids building their confidence and independence – they are the best company in the world because of their creativity and imagination – I don’t like the idea of rules impacting on those qualities.

“Children aged 12-15 with rules relating to personal supervision are more likely to say they have been bullied online in the last 12 months (13% vs. 6%).” 

“8-11s with rules about personal supervision are more likely than those without rules to be concerned about people pretending to be them online (10% vs. 4%), while 12-15s with these rules are more likely to be concerned about seeing things that make them feel sad, frightened or embarrassed (14% vs. 8%).”

I really don’t want to be intervening in the kid’s lives so that they feel sad, frightened and embarrassed.

“Among children aged 12-15 with a social networking site profile, those with these rules are more likely than those without to feel concerned about people sometimes being bullied through social networking sites (41% vs. 28%). They are also more likely to be concerned about people getting a bad name from other people posting comments about them (36% vs. 25%) or about someone posting photos of them on their page (20% vs. 9%). They are, however, no more likely to be concerned that strangers might find out information about them or that someone might pretend to be their age and get to know them.”

Kids really can be bloody awful to each other – you see it in real-life – but you hope they don’t come up against this too often. But I don’t want them entering the world thinking that its likely to happen – if they fear it they will find it.

So maybe not rules – but some ‘tech’ to make it safe – so they know all it well. How does that pan out?

“In terms of children’s critical understanding of online content, children aged 12-15 with technical mediation in place, who use search engines, are more likely than those without such mediation to say that if a search engine lists a result then the information on that website must be truthful (39% vs. 21%).

Children with technical mediation are no more likely to be aware that advertisements are sometimes shown in the search engine’s results…and no more likely to be aware of websites using information to show personalised advertising to visitors.”

But the report also confirms that being a parent in this time isn’t easy and in the coming years I should expect to be part of the Forty-six per cent of parents that agree with the statement:

“My child knows more about the internet than I do”.

 67% of parents of 12-15s feel this way. Why will I be any different?

When I chatted to a friend about all this on the weekend she flagged up that Vodafone were doing their bit to help and had given out a guide to kids in her school (near Bristol). A quick hunt and here it is. Sounds like we should take all the help we can.

Thanks V.

And this article on the BBC website also got me thinking not only about what kids are doing but how they are doing – on how Kindness makes kids more popular. Its not just the ‘what’ our kids do but also the style and performing acts of kindness can have a positive impact on their journeys

“The most interesting finding to me is that a simple positive activity can promote positive relationships among peers,” said Dr Layous.

She suggested that by reinforcing social connections between children … schools could help to combat bullying.

“I was not completely surprised that students increased in happiness, because we have found the same effects in adults,”

Rules can be about the ‘do’s’ as well as the don’ts. Its not all about being tech savvy – its shaped by positive social behaviour.

And if you were in any doubt about how young they start these days – check out this toddlers digital journey.





Digital Talent Night in Oxford


So this week I attended the @OxonDigital event because I’d seen some good content going around on Twitter about it ..and well.. anything around digital is hot right?

It was chance to see whats really going on and catch up wth some tweeps – and it was a great night because the people were friendly and open and enthusiastic. And optimistic too. Its a growing industry and everyone is hiring –  and lets face it Oxford is a pretty cool place to be doing it

As some one who has spent too many years focused on building the internet infrastructure – the backbone, access and datacentres – I’ve long been aware that the value had move to the content – its the apps that really plug into the behaviours that unlock commercial and social value. This stuff done right can make a difference.

The challenge we face

Simons of Ridgeway did a really good pitch about the changes to the climate for digital – with good humility – making fun of his own hair cuts and digital journey over the past decades – to the world of digital natives and the changes to how content will be consumed.


He covered many of the challenges to delivering this – much echoed the thoughts I’d heard at the Guardian Media Summit. But sitting in a room full of the people that have to ride the back of this tiger, I was drawn to query where the talent was going to come from to build all this. Sure enought it seems its hard to find the right people at this point in time, with Ridgeway opening an office in London to get access to the talent needed (there is a shortage of people locally and the new grads from Brookes arnt up to the task on day 1 – there is a gap.

This is great news for those who are in demand and have the skills – but its bad news for the industry as it clogs up – it cant resource its own leading edge – and then we all get dragged down.

Finding good staff is an issue – a bottleneck and its not the biggest leap to see that the company in the room that has the biggest pools of skills will easily be the one with the highest brightest future growth. There is certainly not a shortage of business to be won – but who can execute?

When hearing this I was thinking of the challenges in the gaming industry – NESTA had talked about this when we went to visit them as a Henley “school trip” last year – there is a report they produced that captures why the UK slipped from being third in gaming to being sixth – and amongst other things talent is an major issue. (Check out a Vimeo Vid on the issues here)

Its pretty tragic that of all the courses that prepare the pipeline of skills for the gaming industry only 9 of them meet a standard that the industy requires. And the places that are getting it right arnt the places you expect – there are innovators in education and they are making a difference – but they are in isolated pockets and in unexpected places! (Check out the Skillset list here)

I wonder if its the same issue for digital content and as in the gaming industry; and I wonder whether its just a local issue – but Im thinking who is really compelling some different thinking between this industry and the work of (now expensive) universities. Have people connected to make a change? Engagement is a two way commitment after all.

The Boom

I saw the same talent crisis happening in my world 10 years ago

I came to Oxford to work in an a start-up ISP and was given a grand title and a seat with a view of a field full of cows. I got to live in Woodstock and make the most of the too many pubs the ‘town’ has.

But we couldnt get staff either then – finding someone with Cisco skills and the ability to write a BGP policy was near impossible, For me it was good times – there was a shortage of my skills and so I was paid well – all fine.

But we needed staff and we had to to grow people – and sometimes they came from unlikely sources – but we did get there in the end with some nurturing.

The NOC manager had once been the company receptionist, and before that she was a hairdresser. The customer service team were made up of ex-chefs and other hospitality types; and the new tech-ops guys had been installation engineers – trained in rigging microwave dishes on masts – but now building connections on Stratacom kit and fiddling with routers. It wasnt the rocket science stuff – but they were needed in the mix.

It wasn’t ideal at the time – if you like mastery and perfection it gives you the shits – but there was no other way. And surprisingly most of the ‘unlikely’ candidates developed to be good techies. I think it was the rock solid attitude and curiosity they had that made the difference.

Most managers are caught up recruiting people in their own image. We are always trying finding a tecnical-warrior that could cope with the ambiguity in a growth storm approaching things with some level of creativity, while also delivering reliably and fitting in with our own style. But in a boomtime we found recruiting was often a false-positive and we had more success growing from within. And unexpectedly – it wasnt that painful.(Or has my memory faded…)

It became less about managing resources but more about nurturing seeds.

Loafer Wisdom

Ive recently become a big fan of  Tony Hsieh – who build Zappo’s over 10 years and did some clever things to grow that business – often hopping from one crisis to the next – taking lessons from his past and always thinking very big.

Tony Hsieh is big on culture – his book is engaging on many levels but building a pipeline of staff is probably one of the great Zappo achievements – I really recommend it to anyone who is looking at resourcing during high growth – he has a very clear view on how to shape it. (It could be the only time Ive seen HR being visionary and delivering a strategic advantage – perhaps I just need to get out more…)

What came over from Tonys story is that talent is an issue that needs bigger thinking than just finding a resource. Zappos have a big commitment to developing from within and succession – backed by protecting their brand through right behaviours and having a culture that was homegrown and authentically theirs. So as well as shipping shoes Zappos became a killer learning and development machine. Its a compelling read.

I think if you are a technology SME this all sounds a bit tricky – all high-growth firms are very market focussed – if you invoice based on delivery – then you will focus on a project-by-project view. But at some point it grows one step too far and there is a time, maybe over a beer, when you ask: Is this all going to scale?

I got thinking about the expression “Build it and they will come” – however in the Digital space it looks like “people have come” and now we’re asking “who is going to build it”

Its a nice problem to have 🙂


PS – Just stumbled on this as I press publish –  someone elses view Creative Talent issues here.