AVG Technologies’ research shows number of children aged nine and under able to use an app on a smartphone or iPad increased 38 percent in last three years

MELBOURNE – 5 February 2014 – Major moments in a child’s life, such as the first time they ride a bike, appear to be increasingly superceded by digital coming-of-age capabilities like operating a smartphone or opening a web browser. This digital immersion is charted in the latest Digital Diaries study by AVG Technologies.

More than 6,000 mothers, across 10 countries including Australia, responded to the research about how their children use the Internet and smart devices. The research revealed that by the age of 3-5, more children globally are able play a computer game (66 percent) or navigate a smartphone (47 percent overall and 65 percent in Australia) than tie their shoes (14 percent) or write their own name (38 percent).

Dr Chris Brauer, Director of Innovation in the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “This research shows us that knowing how to use digital devices is almost a birthright now. The challenge parents and society face, augmented by security and privacy technologies, is where this goes next. It’s similar when teaching a child to read. Learning to read is the first challenge but it is what you do with that skill that determines its value and risks.

Like it or not, parents have a huge responsibility to educate their children in responsible and productive use of digital technologies. This research highlights the privacy and security considerations for interconnected homes but also the need to promote balanced lifestyles and that digital literacy is as much about use as access.

Some key findings from the research include:

0-2 years – Sharenting Trumps Privacy

Despite the ongoing public debate around online privacy, more parents than ever are gifting their children with a digital footprint before they can walk, talk or are even born.

  • Over four fifths (81 percent) of the mothers questioned upload photos of their children – with the majority of photos put online before a child’s first birthday (62 percent) and almost a third (30 percent) during the prenatal stage.
  • ‘Sharenting’, where parents publicly share their children’s progress online, was mainly for friends and family (80 percent).

3-5 years – More Screen Smart than Street Smart?

With children increasingly immersed in the digital world from birth, the study highlighted the growing dominance of technology-related life skills over more traditional or practical skills.

  • A testament to the rising role of mobile devices in our children’s lives, 57 percent can also operate at least one app on a smartphone or tablet – an increase of 38 percent since the same question was asked two years ago*.

6-9 years – Blurring Real and Virtual Worlds

By the age of 6-9, the Internet appears to have become deeply ingrained in our children’s social lives, eliciting mixed responses from parents.

  • Of the 89 percent of this age group globally who are using the Internet, almost half (46 percent) are playing in a kid’s virtual world such as Webkinz™ or Club Penguin™; and almost one fifth (16 percent) are using Facebook, despite the legal age for an account being 13.
  • In Australia, however, the figures differ dramatically – 96 percent are connected but only 6 percent are using Facebook.
  • Mothers are largely neutral in their assessment of whether online time helps or hinders their child’s social skills (56 percent in Australia vs 46 overall believe it makes no difference).
  • In Australia 95 percent of the respondents believe their child had not been teased online – significantly higher than the overall 89 percent – but 13 percent (vs 16 percent overall) said they knew of children in their child’s peer group who had experienced aggressive or unpleasant online behaviour.
  • On par with their international counterparts, 78 percent of kids in Australia use the Internet for fewer than 5 hours a week; and 6 percent use it over 10 hours per week.

Parenting – Implications of Raising a Family in a Connected World

A significantly lower proportion of respondents in Australia (57 vs 63 percent) use parental controls on the PCs, laptops and tablets used by their children aged 6-9 years. And 11 vs 6 percent had no knowledge of the existence of these controls.

Michael McKinnon, Security Advisor at AVG Technologies AU, said: “Introduced to this world with a fanfare of social media activity and, by the age of a few months, pacified with a device, our children are learning about life through a screen. But how often are parents taking the time to consider the short and long term implications of raising a family in this connected world? Already there are indications of unpleasant behaviour that can lead to cyber bullying at this young age, even within controlled kids’ environments, and an unsupervised step-up to a much more open network like Facebook is massive.

“Parents can’t afford to become complacent as children of this age are not emotionally equipped to handle all online experiences. Parents providing them access to connected devices – that includes phones, tablets, game consoles and anything else that connects to the Internet – must take responsibility for their safety and privacy.”

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About the Digital Diaries

*AVG’s Digital Diaries research was first undertaken four years ago when it surveyed mothers of children aged 0-9 years old on the impact of technology in family life. With 59 percent of households having three or more connected devices, according to AVG research, it may come as no surprise that children of this age are extremely digitally capable.

This online survey of 6,017 parents was undertaken in the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Australia, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand. The survey was set up using Research Now https://www.qualtrics.com/ and fieldwork took place in November and December 2013. 

About AVG Technologies AU — www.avg.com.au

Based in Melbourne, AVG Technologies AU (a subsidiary of AVG Technologies) sells and distributes the AVG range of Internet and mobile security products in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

About AVG Technologies

AVG Technologies’ mission is to simplify, optimise and secure the Internet experience, providing peace of mind to a connected world. AVG’s powerful yet easy-to-use software and online services put users in control of their Internet experience. By choosing AVG’s software and services, users become part of a trusted global community that benefits from inherent network effects, mutual protection and support. AVG has grown its user base to 172 million active users as of 30 September 2013 and offers a suite of protection, performance and privacy products and services to consumers and small businesses including Internet security, performance optimisation, mobile security, online backup, identity protection and family safety software.

Media resources, including logos, box shots, screen shots etc., are available online at: http://www.avg.com.au/media/

Join the AVG Technologies’ Community for information, video content and pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/officialavg/sets/

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  • Way too much time spent on digital devices – children are missing out on so much these days.


  • That’s scarey numbers right there! Way too much time spent on the Internet by kids. And they’re so young!


  • Some of this is scary and informative.


  • wow yeah i wouldn’t give my kids an email addy, they don’t need one


  • 4% have given their toddler or baby an email address – I love technology but even I draw the line at that one.


  • Great in-depth article thank you. It’s quite overwhelming how huge an impact, and how huge the responsibility online use entails.


  • It’s very easy to entertain children with technology.


  • my grand daughter is two and she is already learning to use the smart phone


  • Very interesting findings about the different age groups. We certainly need to be aware of possible risks with our children not being mature enough to handle some online situations.


  • I thought Legally Facebook users should be 13 years old.


  • I’m all for children learning technology but …6-9 year olds using Facebook – oh dear.


  • Good read thanks for the information


  • This is scary, I know my kids computer use gets a bit out of hand, especially in bad weather.


  • Nice infogram! sharing this out :)


  • an interesting article, makes you think really


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