Tech Used to Define the Generation Gap. Now it’s Bringing Families Together

Many of us refuse to accept the fact that we are getting old and times have drastically changed.

If you have kids, it’s even easier to recognize just how much things have changed.  Instead of finding your kids playing physical games with the neighbors’ kids, you now find them cooped up in the living room playing video games, or in their rooms holding tablets or smartphones, chatting with their friends or consumed in the world of apps.

According to eMarketer’s latest report, “Kids Online: Digital Natives in Digital Homes,” though the digital age may have previously wedged a barrier between kids and their parents, it is now fostering a way to bring them closer by means of connected devices.

Forty-seven percent of respondents stated that the internet provides a great way to connect with members of the family, as they often use technology together.  Although 33 percent have stated they use technology individually, 20 percent have stated interest in using technology together more often.

Ownership of connected devices such as tablets, smartphones and e-readers have greatly increased from 2010 to 2012.  According to the survey, 79 percent of households now have smartphones with internet connection, 26 percent have e-readers, and 43 percent have tablets.  This is compared to the 56 percent, 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively in 2010.

Children these days are also more inclined to using internet connected devices, though those in the teen years, who presumably have a more active social life, are still the major users of these connected devices.  Kids are more interested in using tablets, e-readers and smartphones compared to laptops no matter what age bracket they belong to.  The reason behind this may be because of the fact that tablets, smartphones and e-readers are in fact lighter and more portale than a laptop.

The percentage of kids using smartphones, tablets, and e-readers according to age brackets are: ages 4-5 37 percent, ages 6-8 35 percent, ages 9-11 38 percent and 12-14 47 percent compared to those who use laptops at 22, 28, 37 and 43 percent respectively.

I know some parents may be alarmed with the high percentage of kids using technology but as I’ve said earlier, times have indeed changed.  There a lot of caveats to using internet connected devices, but parents can always take action to protect their children.

Quick tips for Internet Saftey

If you have kids using connected devices such as your laptop, smartphone, tablet or e-reader, there are apps that allow you to put restrictions on the device so they won’t be able to access adult sites or make app purchases.  Some apps even alert you if your kids are about to download an app or give out personal information.  You can download apps such as Kids Place, Care4Teen, and Norton Family to keep your kids safe online.

This I learned from one of my professors — if you don’t want your kids to do a particular task, don’t mention it.  Reiterate what you want them to do, not what you don’t want to do.  Say for example, you don’t want them to accidentally open an adult site.  Don’t even mention that to kids because their curiosity will be piqued and once your back is turned, they’ll go searching for the exact content you wanted them to avoid.  What you can do is drop subtle hints as to what websites you like them to visit, not directly telling them where to go.  Kids have a rebellious gene in them, and most don’t like to listen to what parents have to say.

Talk to them about stranger danger.  I know this is cliche, but not every parent talks about this to their kids.  The internet is a portal where people in one continent can meet hundreds from others.  It can be exciting for kids to have a “friend” from a different continent, but as we’ve seen in the news, a lot of predators lurk in cyberspace and they’re quite good at gaining the trust of youngsters.  Be open to your kids about it, tell them the dangers of talking to strangers – even in cyberspace.