A survey of British children and their parents reveals that typically children start using the Internet from the age of three. But speaking as a former child addict, we should be harnessing their enthusiasm.
The Internet wasn’t around when I was three but I was certainly an online addict by my middle teens. As with all things, parents have to guide their off-spring but a child’s enthusiasm for all things digital certainly doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
I generated my original interest in computing while playing with my ZX Spectrum as a child. The ZX was Britain’s best selling computer in the 1980s and boasted 16 kilobytes of RAM for £125!
I loved my ZX as a kid and it certainly got me involved and excited about the whole computing sector. Along with the BBC Micro it created a culture among young people in Britain that programming could be both fun and creative.
The report was compiled by a poll by Netmums and discovered that many children are spending four hours or more every day on smartphones and computers. Netmums is worried that youngsters are risking their normal physical development by neglecting physical activities and spending hours infront of screens.
A third of the child Internet users questioned said that they struggled to concentrate on activites like reading books and a fifth admitted to interacting more with a virtual world than with real people. Most worryingly, 5% of children admitted that they had met someone who they had first encountered online and well over half admitted to seeing content like pornography, eating disorder sites and self-harm images.
Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children about their Internet surfing and have a responsibility to keep them safe. The Internet makes all information readily available; both good and bad. But as a nation we are still reaping the benefits of the wave of IT innovation that began in Britain in the seventies and eighties. My chief concern is that we are not doing enough to channel our children’s enthusiasm for computing.
I have campaigned for many years that children should be introduced to coding and programming at an early age – certainly at junior school. The Web has democratised business opportunities. If we can instil in every child a basic understanding of programming we will give them a huge advantage.