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AVG Study Shows Young Kids Learn Tech Skills before Life Skills

Forget swimming and riding a bike — young children today more likely to have mastered computer games

Small children today are more likely to navigate with a mouse, play a computer game and increasingly — operate a smartphone — than swim, tie their shoelaces or make their own breakfast. This is according to a new ‘Digital Diaries’ study from Internet Security company AVG Technologies. AVG Digital Diaries is a series of studies looking at how children's interaction with technology has changed.

This second piece of research polled 2,200 mothers with Internet access and with children aged 2–5 in Australia and New Zealand, the U.S.A., Canada, the EU5 (U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain) and Japan. The mothers were given a list of tech skills and a list of life skills and asked which ones their very young children had mastered. The key results are as follows:

1.      More small children can play a computer game than ride a bike. 58 percent of children aged 2–5 know how to play a 'basic' computer game. In Australia it jumps to 66 percent, just behind the UK and France, while in New Zealand it is 56 percent. Even 44 percent of 2–3 year olds have the ability to play a computer game. By comparison, 43 percent of kids 2–3 can ride a bike

2.      More kids aged 2–5 can play with a smartphone application (19 percent) than tie his or her shoelaces (9 percent). Almost as many 2–3 year olds (17 percent) can play with a smartphone application as 4-5 year olds (21 percent)

3.      More small children can open a web browser (25 percent) than swim unaided (20 percent)

4.      There is no tech gender divide between young boys and girls. As many boys (58 percent) as girls (59 percent) can play a computer game or make a mobile phone call (28 percent boys, 29 percent girls)

5.      Mothers aged 35 and over are slightly better at teaching their kids 'life skills'. For example 40 percent of toddlers with mothers aged 35-plus can write their own name compared with 35 percent of toddlers with mothers aged 34 or younger

6.      European children aged 2–5 lead their U.S., Australian and New Zealand counterparts in knowing how to make a mobile phone call (44 percent in Italy vs. 25 percent for the U.S.A., 19 percent in Australia and 18 percent in New Zealand), playing a computer game (70 percent U.K. vs. 66 percent Australia, 61 percent U.S.A. and 56 percent New Zealand) and operating a computer mouse (78 percent France vs. 67 percent U.S.)

7.      Almost three times as many Australian and USA kids (30 percent) can operate at least one smartphone or tablet app than their NZ and Japanese counterparts (12 percent and 11 percent respectively).

Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist for AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, says, “Perhaps the most important piece of data to come out of this survey is the fact that 69% of children aged 2–5 are using a computer in the first place. It’s exciting and commendable that so many parents are teaching their children such valuable computer skills so early on — they will need these skills to succeed later in life, and perhaps increasingly, not so later in life.

“Technology has changed what it means to be a parent raising children today — these children are growing up in an environment that would be unrecognisable to their parents. The smartphone and the computer are increasingly taking the place of the TV as an education and entertainment tool for children,” says Borrett.

“You want kids to be computer literate, but how much is too much? If two to five- year-olds can log onto the Internet, locate and play a simple computer game, what will they be able to do when they’re six, seven or eight years old?”

Tips for Parents to Keep Their Kids Safe Online

Here are AVG’s top 10 “keep safes” to help protect children as they begin to explore all the wonders of the Web.

  1. Keep your computer in the living room where Internet activity can be more closely monitored.
  1. Keep your children off Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and other adult-oriented social networks and sites. Some networks and sites do exist that were designed with children in mind, but beware of slippery slopes. Participation in a ‘safe’ network could create an inflated sense of trust that doesn’t serve as kids migrate along with their peers to less child-oriented online communities. 
  1. Keep your children close. Talk with them. Know what is going on in their lives, and look for any signs of new influences or distress. Establish early on a bond of trust that will allow you at least some access when their lives get more complicated and susceptible to external pressures as they grow older. 
  1. Keep parental control software on your machine and update often.
  1. Keep from getting comfortable. Kids know more than you think. They learn it in computer lab. They learn it on their friend’s computer during play-dates. Never assume your child doesn’t know enough or isn’t capable enough to put themselves in harm’s way.
  1. Keep a folder of parent-approved sites your child can visit on their own. These may include trusted online gaming sites such as PBSKids.com or educational sites such as Discovery’s HowStuffWorks.com.
  1. Keep a limit on how much time your kid spends on the computer. Even with maximum safety in place, no child should spend more than an hour or so online.
  1. Keep informed yourself. Follow Larry Magid on SafeKids.com or CommonSenseMedia.org for reviews of web sites and more.
  1. Keep an eye on kids especially when a friend is over for a play-date. Many parents allow their kids unfettered access to the Internet, which could in turn lead your own kids down ill-advised paths.
  1. Keep your own use of the Internet in check as you yourself could put your family at risk by sharing too much about you, your kids, and where you live.

“As the research shows, parents need to start educating kids about navigating the online world safely at an earlier age than they might otherwise have thought. The world may be no more dangerous now than it was two decades ago, but thanks to the Internet, those dangers are now at your doorstep. Your child may know not to open the door to a stranger, but have you taught your child how to keep a stranger from climbing in through a computer window?” Borrett concludes.

AVG Digital Diaries

AVG Digital Diaries is a series of studies looking at children of different age groups. With this year long piece of research, AVG aims to conduct a comprehensive study about children's technology habits. The first piece of research, entitled 'Digital Birth' released in October 2010, found that most babies and toddlers have an online footprint by the time they are six months old.

Click this link to download the AVG Digital Skills full briefing.

You can see Lloyd discuss this topic on video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMH-jxShH5g, plus you can view parents’ reaction to this study at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jQ2j-LsomU

To download the Digital Skills infographic click this link to Flickr.

AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site at http://www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/. For more video tips from AVG (AU/NZ), see http://www.youtube.com/user/avgaunz.

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About AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltdwww.avg.com.au

Based in Melbourne, AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd distributes the AVG range of Anti-Virus and Internet Security products in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. AVG software solutions provide complete real-time protection against the malware, viruses, spam, spyware, adware, worms, Trojans, phishing and exploits used by cyber-criminals, hackers, scammers and identity thieves. AVG protects everything important and personal inside computers — documents, account details and passwords, music, photos and more — all while allowing users to work, bank, shop and play games online in safety.

AVG provides outstanding technical solutions and exceptional value for consumers, small to medium business and enterprise clients. AVG delivers always-on, always up-to-date protection across desktop, and notebook PCs, plus file and e-mail servers in the home and at work in SMBs, corporations, government agencies and educational institutions.

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