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Socially-Networked Kids Reach “Digital Adulthood” Before They Are Developmentally Ready

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There are many times when I hear parents joke about how their kids know more about computers and the Internet than they do. While that may be the case for parents who aren’t very tech-savvy, a recent study by security leader AVG Technologies found that kids of this generation are as equally knowledgeable about technology as their parents are. 

As part of its Digital Diaries series, AVG found that the average 11-year-old’s online activities are very similar to that of their adult counterparts in terms of the length of time spend on mobile devices and overall time using social networks and online games and are experiencing “digital adulthood.” While they’re becoming well-versed in using these networks, these tweens are also engaging in online behaviors and activities that may result in situations they’re not emotionally and developmentally ready to handle. 

Now that kids are getting cell phones at younger ages, they are able to access the Internet and social networks directly from their mobile devices and while they’re away from home. The study found that of the 4,000+ parents surveyed worldwide, approximately half of them allow their underage kids (10 and 11) to join sites like Facebook. While 72 percent of parents have logged into their kids’ computers in an attempt to monitor their online behavior, 41 percent still allow their 10- to 13-year-old kids to have computers in their bedrooms, which makes more consistent monitoring more difficult. 

In a press release about the study, AVG CEO JR Smith said, “Technologically speaking, today’s kids can walk the walk, but they can’t talk the talk. They might run circles around their parents when it comes to using computers, but they don’t know what to do when they get bullied or harassed or swindled. Often they can’t even see it happening to them. This kind of thing can scar a person for life.” 

According to AVG, digital adulthood is a result of unsupervised browsing and social networking that has the potential of surfacing “content and conversations that exceed the maturity of the user.” AVG recommends that parents start talking to their kids and educating them about online dangers, such as cyberbullying. Doing so will better prepare their kids to handle everything that a digital world has to offer. The company also recommends parents consider installing Internet monitoring software. 

Do you agree with AVG that technology is “fundamentally changing the nature of childhood”? If so, what do you think parents should be doing to better protect their kids?

 

 

 

 

 

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