Study: Young kids better with tech than 'life skills'

A study of online moms finds that young children have better tech skills than "life skills."

Larry Magid
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.
Larry Magid
2 min read

A survey of online mothers found that more small children can play a computer game than ride a bike. The Digital Diaries study from Internet security firm AVG said that 58 percent of children aged two to five know how to play a "basic computer game" compared with 52 percent who know how to ride a bike. Sixty-three percent can turn a computer on and off, and 69 percent can use a mouse. By contrast, only 20 percent can "swim unaided," 11 percent can tie their shoelaces without help, and 20 percent know how to make an emergency phone call.

The study polled of 2,200 online mothers of children between two and five years old in the U.S., Canada, the EU5 (U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain), Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, according to AVG.

Other interesting findings are that 25 percent know how to use a browser, 16 percent can navigate between Web sites, 15 percent know at least one Web address, and 19 percent know how to operate a smartphone or a tablet. On the analog side of life, 39 percent know their home address, 27 percent can make their own breakfast, and 37 percent can write their first and last name.

The study also found that mothers older than 35 are "marginally better at teaching their children life skills," which the survey defines as non-tech skills like making breakfast or riding a bike. The study also concluded that "there is no tech gender divide between young boys and girls. As many boys [58 percent] as girls [59 percent] can play a computer game or make a mobile phone call [28 percent boys, 29 percent girls]."

While I guess it's great that kids are so tech-savvy, the study points out that they may not be getting the "life skills" they need in other areas of their lives. In an interview, AVG's Tony Anscombe said "Because we (adults) are so connected, maybe what we don't understand is what we're actually doing is connecting our children the same way, and it's becoming normal for them and maybe we're ignoring some of those life skills as well."

Anscombe added, "as parents there is a digital responsibility to be had. We need to look at making sure that we give our children a balanced life and a mix of both life skills and technical skills."

What we don't know from this data is how children might have done with life skills in the pre-computer age. I did come across a document (PDF) from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that suggests that ages four and five are when it's appropriate for kids to "ride small bicycles."