New study: Kids are learning computer skills before life skills

Child tying shoelace

Internet security and Anti-virus group AVG recently released its latest piece of research as part of their Digital Diaries series, which examines the challenges of growing up in a digital age.  The research highlights how dramatically technology and the Internet have reshaped the childhood experience.   As AVG Blog author J.R. Smith writes:

Before the early 1990s, when the “information super highway” began appearing in homes, offices and dorm rooms everywhere, most childhood experiences were still indelibly linked to such “firsts” as learning how to swim or ride a bike. Our childhood experiences were less idyllic than many of those depicted by Normal Rockwell, perhaps, but we bore the same scraped knees, black eyes, and childhood crushes. We were outdoors—curious, determined and in constant motion.

True, many of us had television, Atari, and the ultimate destroyer of innocence, cable. But none of these distractions so drastically and quickly reshaped the childhood experience as the computer and what ultimately formed its heart and soul, the Internet. So much so, in fact, that about a decade ago kids began acquiring certain computer skills sooner than traditional real-world skills, such as swimming and riding a bike.

The study, which polled 2,200 mothers internationally all with children aged 2-5 found that:

  • More young children know how to play a computer game (58%) than swim (20%) or ride a bike (52%);
  • 28% of young children can make a mobile phone call, but only 20% know to dial 911 in case of an emergency;
  • 69% of children aged 2-5 can operate a computer mouse, but only 11% can tie their own shoelaces; and,
  • 69% of all children aged 2-5 are using the computer.

As Smith continued in his blog:

It’s exciting and commendable that so many parents are teaching their children such valuable computer skills so early on—they will need these skills to succeed later in life, and perhaps increasingly, not so later in life.  But as more kids are given the power to log onto the Internet and let the entire world spill into their living rooms, are they also getting the skills and supervision they need to keep them and their families safe?

Over the weekend my husband and I headed out on a chartered fishing trip where we met a couple with a two-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.  The father shared with us that he and most of the other parents he knew had little clue how to protect their children and educate their children in the digital age.  He, like many of the parents we encounter in our work at Enough Is Enough (EIE), didn’t have filters or any other type of parental controls on the computers or their mobile devices, despite the fact that both the two and three-year old were already demonstrating an impressive level of digital proficiency.

As the AVG research highlights, parents must start educating their kids about navigating the online world safely at an earlier age, and parents must also use the many wonderful parental control tools available to help protect their children from encountering online dangers.  As I shared with the father, this is the heart of our Internet Safety 101SM program—we want every parent to be educated, equipped and empowered to protect, guide and engage with their children in the online world in the same way they protect, guide and engage with their children in the offline world so our children can develop the critical thinking skills and healthy life experiences needed to be safe and savvy in the digital age.


  1. Joy

    I think the study is at least slightly flawed since 2-5 has never been an average age when children would learn to tie shoes, swim, or ride a bike. I think 5-7 is a more accurate developmental age when these activities traditionally take place. I know personally, I learned to tie my shoes at 5 and ride a bike at 6 (that’s without training wheels). Pointing and clicking a mouse is very easy for small children and there are many educationally rich websites made for children.

    My kids are 6 and 8. They can both tie their shoes, ride a bike, and swim. They also know how to go online to study their spelling words or play a game. The best thing I can do for them is to keep the computer and TV in the main family room, use parental controls on devices like the TV and DSi, know who their friends and friends’ parents are, and last but not least, keep the lines of communication open.

    It is almost impossible to see what the total impact of the Internet will have on this generation. However terrible or wonderful it may be, good parenting is still good parenting.

  2. It’s both awesome and frightening how much the computer/internet has changed our lives. As frightening as some of these changes are… the computer/internet is here to stay. So how do we get involved in our children’s/tweens/teens computer lives. Kids are savvier on the computer than most parents. That doesn’t mean that parents should turn their backs on their children’s computer lives. It’s a parents responsibility to teach safe, responsible, and appropriate behavior online. Limits need to be set on the amount of time children are online. Parents need to know what their children are doing online and parent online just as they do offline.

    ScreenRetriever, ( a new approach to online safety is all about teaching, which is the best way to keep our kids safe. ScreenRetriever makes it easy for parents to know what their children are doing online so that they can teach appropriate behavior online and be involved in their children’s online lives. “Proper monitoring and vigilance is important and is an act of safety, not intrusion, or lack of trust, or over-parenting.” Dr. John Brackett

  3. Mary Flewelling-Pinchen

    Hello Sir or Madam,
    I recently came across the photo of a child tying his red running shoes. I am a Canadian Montessori teacher who is currently completing a resource manual for Montessori teachers. I would like to request permission to use this image in my book. Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know if this is possible and what arrangement (if any) I would need to take to use this image.
    I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.
    Thank you!
    Mary Flewelling-Pinchen

    • Hello, we appreciate you taking the time to visit our site blog. Unfortunately, we are not authorized to release photo permissions.

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