Preparing Us and Our Kids for Digital Playgrounds

Recent research of parents in the United States, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of AVG, shows the ubiquitous rise in the number of kids with mobile devices while exploring important issues in our digital family dynamics.

We found 51% of connected kids receive a device before the fifth grade.  With that level of smartphone, tablet and Internet access reaching into lower age groups, it’s clear that today’s schoolyards and playgrounds now extend to the online world.

As a new parent working in tech, I think a lot about the ever-increasing use of connected devices and social media in our families and its effects on us as parents. We are on the frontline of this new issue where the security and privacy of our kids is a major cause of concern. In the real world you can see who is bullying whom but online that’s not always clear.

Of course, it’s not just cyberbullying that we (parents and non-parents) need to be concerned about; but access to a lot of PG-rated and above material that is just one click away. As our new research indicates; unfortunately, many parents don’t monitor their kids’ online activities closely. Only half of parents of children aged 3-17 (51 percent) said they check their child’s activity weekly, one in five check it less than once a month or not at all (nearly two in ten) and just over half (56 percent) say they know the password to their child’s device.

Interestingly enough and coinciding with our research, another report surfaced last week on ABC’s Good Morning America about kids installing secret mobile apps that let them hide their online activities, like photos and texts. Yahoo Tech’s editor Dan Tynan, who was interviewed on the topic, gave this simple advice: turn off the ability to install apps without parental approval.

(Currently, our research suggests only four in ten parents have installed a parental block on their kids’ devices.)

Tynan’s recommendation echoes that of my colleague, AVG’s Sr. Security Evangelist Tony Anscombe, who offered his own sage advice to parents of school age children in a Back to School Tips column last week. Tony is also the author of the book “One Parent to Another,” an excellent resource which is available here.

My baby is less than one-year-old, so I’m a long way off from having to deal with many of these issues but I know my day is coming. I was particularly struck by a recent Parents Magazine article on the topic of “Parenting in a Fakebook World” that chronicled many of the pressures that start at an early age in raising a family in our Instagram-happy, Pinterest-perfect culture. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Securing every family member online is a major focus for us at AVG and we will continue to devote a lot of time to understanding the dynamics and needs of digital families, as well as offering tools for help make the online world a safer one for our kids.

So, stay tuned for more here on

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