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.
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.