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Internet-illiterate parents hold back kids

Parents who lack Web skills could be damaging their children's education and job prospects, researchers say.

Parents who lack Internet skills could be damaging their children's education and job prospects, leaving them on the wrong side of the growing digital divide, researchers said Thursday.

According to research by academics at the London School of Economics, many parents lack the skills to guide their children's Internet use. The study surveyed 1,511 young people, aged nine to 19, and 906 parents.

"Now that many young people rely on the Internet for information, homework help and careers guidance, the more it matters that some of them are getting left behind," said Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology for LSE's media and communications department. "Not knowing how to best use the Internet may have a negative impact on their education and employment opportunities."

Children who use the Internet on a daily or weekly basis tend to have parents who also use the Net more often and are more Web-savvy, the survey found.

The research showed that the digital divide is also growing for those who don't know how to safely use the Internet.

"Of the parents we surveyed, 18 percent--nearly a fifth--said they don't know how to help their children use the Internet safely," Livingstone said. "Many recognized their own responsibility: 67 percent wanted more and better advice for parents, but 75 percent also wanted more and better teaching guidance in schools."

The report added that "fearful parents may take too rigorous an approach to restricting online access completely and thereby leave their children less aware of online risks, such as chat room dangers, when they do use the Internet."

Steve Ranger of reported from London.