Kids today spend more of their lives online than offline, according to research carried out by Kaspersky Lab and iconKids & Youth. As kids grow older, offline activities tend to transfer to the online world.
Moreover, three-in-four children prefer to use the Internet to get information, rather than any other source. These findings show that children can become even more vulnerable online without parental supervision and support.
The research, undertaken for Kaspersky Lab by iconkids & youth, surveyed online 3,780 families with children aged 8 – 16 (one parent and one child per family) in seven countries including USA, France, UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia.
Children stay close to their mobile devices all day, and even tend to sleep with them, so that they can go online around the clock from any location. The research shows that four-in-ten are reluctant to put their smartphone down even during mealtimes.
Furthermore, 23% of parents of 8-10 year olds admitted that their kids take their mobile phones to bed with them. This number grows to 41% for parents of 11-13 year olds and reaches 64% for parents of 14-16 year olds.
The Internet has deeply penetrated into children’s lives. It connects them to their friends and relatives, they use it to find information, for entertainment and consider it as a destination point when looking for the latest news.
Practically all activities that are of interest to children – from social contacts, to games and movies etc. – are accessible online. The difference in usage among kids who are 8-10 years old and those aged 14-16 years old can easily be tracked. The older they get, the more they “export” their offline activities to the online world.
With the rise of social networks, the way people communicate to each other has changed significantly. Results of the research illustrate this pattern: almost half of the teenagers questioned (49%) admitted that they would under no circumstances do without social networking, while only one fifth of kids aged 8-10 years old made the same claim.
The research also has shown that, the older children get, the more they move their communication with people from the offline to the online world.
Another significant part of children’s lives – education – also moves online as they grow. As children grow older, they become more willing to use the Internet to learn. 26% of 8-10 year olds agreed that they study more online than offline, but for 14-16 year olds this number has grown to 39%.
Today’s information age sees teens turn online in search of the data they need: only 13% said that they search for the things that interest them offline, while 49% go online to get the answers to their questions. All in all, three-in-four kids (74%) prefer to use the Internet to get information, rather than any other source.
“Our study has shown that as kids grow, they tend to switch from the physical world to the online world in almost every field of their lives. We see a clear trend that the older children get, the more their life depends on Internet access. In such circumstances, it is essential that parents explain to their kids that apart from all the positive things the Internet brings, there are also dangers that a child might not be able to recognize,” comments Andrei Mochola, Head of Consumer Business at Kaspersky Lab.
“Parental control programs can protect kids from the information that is not suitable for them, and will notify parents about the online dangers their children may be facing online. It can of course be hard to explain to a child, especially taking into account that today’s kids are digital natives – they often think they know how to use the Internet better than their parents. Our society – especially parents – need to learn how to communicate online dangers to children in a relevant, but understandable manner,” adds Mochola.
What can parents do?
There is no handbook on how to raise your kids in today’s Internet of Me. The technology is changing so rapidly that it is hard to predict the changes each month, let alone 1-5 years down the road. Perhaps the best thing that we can do as parents is to cultivate open and honest relationships with our kids and make sure that they are comfortable talking with us on any topic.
We also need to teach them what is right and wrong, just like our parents did, but with the added responsibility of adding in a virtual element that our parents never had to deal with.
“The Internet is shaping the behavior of children and young people in wide-ranging aspects of their lives. It is the shared role of the family, school and the community in general, to help them use online tools and platforms responsibly and maintain a healthy life balance. It is important that online technology becomes an integral part of a child’s learning activities, whether at home or at school. More needs to be done to bring school education into line with the reality of today's world, and to stop undermining the very important role that parents play in educating their children, despite not always being able to match their technical skills,” says Janice Richardson, Senior Advisor at European Schoolnet.