A dinner conversation with some young parents eventually led to their kids, the differences between the generations and how challenging it was to keep up the them. We all thought the digital age was the main culprit.
I come from a generation where the television was the centre of the family entertainment. The digital age has taken over with unprecedented access to media via online and mobile. Suddenly the black box is replaced by a tablet and kids are on the internet more frequently. In addition to tablet computer, children can now consume media via smart phones, MP3 players, portable handheld video games, electronic interactive toys, laptops, DVDs and DVRs. Children are also using different types of digital technology concurrently such as texting or surfing the internet on a tablet while watching cable TV.
Texting has is most popular with increased usage among the young. 12 to 15 year olds in the UK text 193 messages a week compared to the national weekly average of 50. Girls on average send 221 texts a week.
3 to 4 year olds in the UK are now digitally literate with 37% of pre-schoolers regularly surfing the web and social media sites via tablets, smart phones and laptops. Those 12 to 15 years spend 17 hours a week on the internet. In the US, children between 8-18 years are now exposed to media for over 10 hours a day.
China is experiencing the rise of an "Apple generation" of children with easy access and use of electronic media. These children regularly use entertainment applications such as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds on smart phones and tablets.
These changing media habits of the young means parents have to keep up with new consumption patterns and technology advances. Learning how to use social media is probably least of the challenges. Parents are facing growing concerns with online safety of their children, particularly with the prevalent use of social networks. There's increased online bullying and new "friends" who are actually real-life strangers. Family time is now very much kids in front of P2P players and iPhones. I'm not even surprised anymore to find parents and children replacing verbal communication with texting while in the same room. You would think an age of digital communication devices would make it easier to bring people together. Yet the challenges for parents to communicate with their children can only balloon over time as more and more families face devices rather than each other.