Parents may be cooler than kids think

If it feels like kids fiddling with Internet-connected devices look younger and younger, it is because they are.  Almost all parents, 94 percent, allow their kids to use at least one online service or device, according to a new Microsoft survey that asks adults questions to understand, “How Old is Too Young.”  The survey asked both parents and non-parents, at what age would they allow children unsupervised access to technologies such as mobile devices, social sites, and online services. In addition, respondents were asked at what age they would talk to children about online risks.  


Interestingly, the survey shows that parents may be cooler than kids think.  Overall, the results reveal non-parents tend to be stricter when it comes to when and how they’d allow children to access online technologies—by an average age gap of two years.  For example, 16 percent of non-parents say they would not allow children ages four to six, to use a device such as gaming console without supervision, compared to 27 percent of parents who say it’s okay.  And when it comes to online services such as social networking, 19 percent of parents with kids age seven to 10 have given their kids the green light, compared to only eight percent of non-parents who would give them the go-ahead.


What’s more, of parents with children under the age of seven who responded to the survey;


  • Forty-one percent allow their children to use a gaming console unsupervised.
  • Forty percent allow their children, to use a computer unsupervised.
  • Twenty-nine percent allow their children to use of mobile phones unsupervised.


While some might dismiss the age question, the fact is the interactions children experience online, and through gaming, are actually conditioning their interpersonal skills. Setting kids up for success early is important. “Online gaming begins to establish social norms for children, even at an early age. That’s why setting household rules for what’s appropriate and not appropriate online, matters,” says Rosalind Wiseman, author and educator of children, teens and parents.


The good news is 83 percent of parents who allow kids unsupervised access, said they’ve set rules or had a conversation with their kids about online safety.  What’s more, two-thirds said they’d done so before age 10.  And parents and non-parents see eye to eye when it comes to having that conversation about the digital do’s and don’ts, with the majority of respondents (74 percent of parents, and 89 percent of non-parents) agreeing that parents  should provide the online safety guidance.


“It’s never too early, or too late, to talk to your kids about being safer, smarter, and more considerate online.  While kids may be savvier when it comes to how the devices work, parents can be instrumental in helping to shape how kids think about, engage with, and generally behave with technology both online and off,” says Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft Chief Online Safety Officer.


Microsoft has put together a few tips to help start that online safety conversation with the goals to engage educate, enforce and evaluate the best rules for your family:

Think before clicking

·        When kids get unexpected or odd messages, even from friends, tell them not to open photos, songs, or other attachments or click links in those messages. Instead, they should first check with the sender by some means other than hitting “Reply.”

Think before you app

·        Help kids choose apps that are appropriate for their age and maturity.

·        Get apps that are well reviewed, and from reputable stores.

·        Review the privacy policy together to find out what the app will do with location and other sensitive data.

Support safer social circles

·        Show kids how to make social network pages private.

·        Ask kids to think twice about who they accept as friends. Consider adding only those whom they or close friends have met in person or with whom they have friends in common.

·        Encourage children to promote a positive image online, and be respectful with comments.


Read what parents had to say about how they talk to kids about online safety, and find more information about both the results and mobile safety tips on www.microsoft.com/safety. For additional survey findings check out the Microsoft On the Issues blog. Please let me know if you have any questions.



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