Tag Archives: parenting

7 tips for picking the right back to school device

When I was young, I remember watching episodes of Dr. Who and Star Trek and marveling at the flat screen monitors, tablets and wireless connectivity they portrayed.

I recently watched one of the original Star Trek movies and noticed how dated the technology looked. It seems that not only has technology delivered what was the vision of film makers but surpassed it. Our kids are growing up in a world that I never dreamed would be a reality.

The interesting part of this is that this hyper-connected is entirely normal for them. We as adults view it as connected, digital, devices and make it sound like a special part of life but to our kids it’s just life.

I often see questions such as ‘what age do I give my child a smartphone?’ Realistically, there can be no wrong answer as every child matures differently and every parent has differing views and boundaries. There are indicators though that should allow us to make a reasonable decision on the right age for children to have smartphones. Generally, they look at responsibility, respect and maturity. Giving a phone to a child is a big responsibility for both the parent and child, after all the actions of the child are the responsibility of the parent.

There are obviously lots of reasons for a child to have a smartphone, but also lots of reasons for them not to. It’s important that we encourage our kids to spend more time outside, play with their friends, learn social skills and interact directly with other people will stand them in good stead for adult life. A consideration on how the device fits in to school life and will it hinder and or enable learning needs to be a part of the decision, again something that differs for every child.

My son had access to a flip phone from the age of 10. This was a family device and then at 13 he was then allowed a full smartphone on the grounds that it was a privilege and not a right. At 15, he is now a young man and the dynamic and guidance become very different. Just yesterday, we had a chat about disabling ‘auto retrieve’ to mitigate the risk of the StageFright vulnerability.

Another frequent question at this time of year is what laptop or tablet should I be buying to enable learning at school, here are some key questions that might help aid the decision process on this.


Key considerations for back to school tech purchases

What is the purpose of the device?

Is it for productivity or for consumption? If you think about how we use the devices in our lives tablets are typically used to browse, watch and consume content where a laptop is used to create and produce, while there is some crossover this is a reasonable question to start the process of which is better.

School equipment

Does the school provide any equipment as learning aids? Knowing which devices kids have access to at school might help you decide to buy a device that the school does not already use.

Device specifics

Different devices have different uses. Tablets can be great for apps while laptops are of course great for browsing the web and certain types of gaming.

There is then the question of device choice, size of laptop or tablet, this one is personal and engaging your child on this is a good idea. After all, they will be the user of the device.


One top tip our own AVG IT department gave me when I purchased a laptop for my device was that I should buy the accidental damage insurance offered as kids drop or damage stuff in ways we don’t. This advice proved extremely useful and has saved me money!

Responsible Use

Okay, so you’ve decided on the right device and appropriate age, but the job isn’t done yet. Just like crossing the road, it’s up to us as parents to show our kids how to use the web responsibly and respect others when they communicate Remember that kids are not fully developed from a maturity perspective and they need our guidance (despite the fact that as teenagers think they know everything.)

School policy

Read the schools policy on Internet use and communication and enforce the same principles out of school, with the right education and guidance your kids might amaze you on their ability to behave in a mature way.

If in doubt, discuss

If necessary, then monitoring what they do may help you understand and guide them better, I personally find just talking to them about what they are up to works well and is much less intrusive. I know my parents never knew everything I got up to when I was a child so having a little freedom, unless its abused, is a positive growing up experience.


Make sure your kids understand one core principal – ‘if you wouldn’t say it offline then don’t say it online’


Digital Diaries: Teens are Photoshopping their images before sharing

Our latest  Digital Diaries research shows that more than two in ten children said they had edited photos of themselves before posting them online. Photoshopping at age 11 -13? Twenty-two percent of kids surveyed reported they had. Why?

Globally, thirty percent of the kids who altered their photos said they did so to make them look better.  Thirty four percent (34%) said they edited to make the photo look like more fun. And girls (21%) were more prone to do the editing than boys.

In the age of Facebook and Instagram, this definitely ties into the pressures we place on kids as a society to look perfect – and unrealistic beauty standards perpetuated by models and movie stars (many of whom are often Photoshopped).

Here in the U.S., did you know that one of the options now offered for school photos is to Photoshop your kid’s photo? You can take care of any imperfections like braces, blemishes and teeth whitening that might make the photos appear less than perfect.

In 2010, when The New York Times reported on the emergence of the phenomena, some of the leading school portrait photography companies reported up to 10% of elementary school photos were being altered. What kind of message does this photo altering send to kids?

“If we encourage kids to want to erase their imperfections when they’re very young, how will they ever be able to handle acne…or wrinkles?” wrote a young blogger who has written about the negative effects of Photoshopping on young people—specifically girls on social media.

Which brings us back to digital parenting…There’s a lot here for us to continue to ponder as we and our families live more and more of our lives always on and online.

It’s important for parents to show their children that what they see online or in the movies isn’t always real. The digital doctoring of images in the pursuit of ‘perfection’ can have damaging consequences for the self-image and confidence of young girls and boys.

The digital world holds a host of opportunity and excitement for our children, but as parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, it’s our job to guide them and educate them in the pro’s, con’s and deceptions that it can bring with it.

What is the right age to learn about online safety?

When our kids are just about knee high to a grasshopper we start the process of teaching them things to keep them safe, whether it’s that the cooker is hot or that crossing the road could be dangerous.

The process of crossing the road starts at a young age, we hold their hands and stand near the edge of the sidewalk and talk to them about looking both ways and listening, then under our guidance we walk them across the road. As time progresses we ask them to do the looking and listening, we do it too and then we cross the road on their instruction but with us close by having checked that its safe to do so.

The final stage of this is their first outing to the shop, whether for candy or a newspaper we send them off on the big adventure of being grown up enough to step out on their own.

I often get asked at what age should we be talking to our kids about internet safety, my answer is simple, as soon as you let them start using it. Their experience online should be similar to the way we teach them to cross the road, first we do things with them and then with time and experience they step out to do things on their own.

Our recent survey of 2200 parents in the UK shows that 40% of parents with children aged 4-6 have not yet educated their children on the possible dangers and a quarter of them have no plans to give any guidance to their kids. I am certain that if I asked the same question about crossing the road the percentage would be much lower.

More than 40% believed that their kids are sensible enough not to need it, does this mean that parents don’t know the challenges themselves or that they just feel uncomfortable in having what can be an awkward conversation.

The Internet offers our kids a learning and communication experience that we only thought possible in science fiction movies when we were kids, flat screens, voice activation, video on demand and an endless supply of data and information to keep our lives enriched with content.

With the world very much at their finger tips our kids need our wisdom, maturity and knowledge to guide them in accessing the wealth of information and entertainment available to them. As with anything in life there are risks, but they become very minimized if we are equipped to deal with them.

Kids Competing with Mobile Phones for Parents’ Attention

AMSTERDAM – June 24, 2015 – Mobile phones are gaining an increasing share in the battle for parental attention, with a third of children, surveyed for a recent study, saying their parents spent equal or less time with them, than on their devices. The research, conducted by AVG® Technologies N.V. (NYSE: AVG), the online security company™ for more than 200 million monthly active users, examined children’s perceptions of their parents’ mobile device use, and uncovered some worrying trends.

Hinting at ongoing digital intrusion upon family life, over 50 percent of the children questioned, felt that their parents checked their devices too often (54 percent); and their biggest grievance, when given a list of possible, bad device habits, was that their parents allowed themselves to be distracted by their device during conversations (36 percent) – something that made a third of the complainants feel unimportant (32 percent).

When asked about their device use, half of all parents agreed that it was too frequent (52 percent), and many also worried about how this looked to the younger generation. Almost a third (28 percent) felt that they didn’t set a good example for their children with their device use.

“With our kids picking up mobile devices at an increasingly younger age, it is really important that we set good habits within the home, early on,” said Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies. “Children take their cues from us for everything else, so it is only natural that they should do the same with device use. It can be hard to step away from your device at home; but with a quarter of parents telling us that they wished their child used their device less (25 percent), they need to lead by example and consider how their behavior might be making their child feel.”

In a country by country comparison, Brazilian parents topped the survey for device use, with 87 percent of children stating their parents used mobile devices too much. More worryingly, 59 percent of Brazilian parents admitted to using the phone while driving – interestingly, 56 percent of children in Brazil also said they would confiscate a parent’s device, if they could.

Digital Diaries Infographic



AVG commissioned an online survey, interviewing parents and their children, between the ages of 8-13, to identify perceptions and realities of parental device use in the following markets: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. A total of 6,117 completed the survey during June 2015. The market research company, Research Now, carried out the fieldwork using their proprietary panels.

Time to Hang Up? Parents Should Look into Latest Smartphone Studies

Our children are spending more and more time with smartphones, and with good reason. They give parents a line of contact, and give kids access to loads of great games and apps.

But a recent study from the London School of Economics suggests that you may want to limit or delay your child’s access to smartphones. It shows a clear link from schools that ban students from carrying phones to an improvement in their test scores.

So what’s the gist of the study? It turns out that having a smartphone – or barring one—has a real and measurable impact on education.

“We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days,” researchers Richard Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland stated. The study, released this May, is called Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance. It also found that following a ban on phone use, the schools’ test scores improved by 6.4%. The impact on underachieving students was much more significant — their average test scores rose by 14%.  The results noted that they could focus regardless of the presence of a smartphone.

The authors looked at how phone policies at 91 schools in England have changed since 2001, and compared that data with results achieved in national exams taken at the age of 16. The study covered 130,000 pupils. (See link to the full study here.)

It’s an interesting conundrum. Many of us think that technology is a driving force for improvement and development. I think that having the great wealth of education on the Internet can only be a boon. But the authors of the study draw awareness to the contrast. “Technological advancements are commonly viewed as leading to increased productivity. Numerous studies document the benefits of technology on productivity in the workplace and on human capital accumulation. There are, however, potential drawbacks to new technologies, as they may provide distractions and reduce productivity.”

Here in the US, these new studies may change a few minds and tilt a few policies. For example, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City just revoked a decades old ban on cell phones, leaving it up to individual principals, in consultation with parents and teachers. I wonder now if he might re-think his decision?

Other research underscores the concerns raised. A major educational study by the Pew Research Institute  found 87% of teachers surveyed said that Internet and digital devices are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% said today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

The crux of the matter is this: Kids are using their phones to text and chat when they should be paying attention in class and interacting with others personally and not digitally.

Meanwhile, yet another recent study outlines additional risks of smartphone behavior: They don’t allow us to think for ourselves.

A study from researchers at the University of Waterloo (Canada) published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, says that “Smartphone users who are intuitive thinkers — more prone to relying on gut feelings and instincts when making decisions — frequently use their device’s search engine rather than their own brainpower. Smartphones allow them to be even lazier than they would otherwise be.”

“They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it,” said Gordon Pennycook, co-lead author of the study.

“Decades of research has revealed that humans are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind,” noted Nathaniel Barr, the other lead author of the paper.

I think it is great to have so many tech educational resources at our fingertips.  But I too worry about is the next generation. Thinking about things, focusing, contemplating, and making decisions are a crucial part of a young person’s life – as is imagination.

We’ve also done a lot of research on children, Internet safety and the mobile world. AVG Digital Diaries research findings last year showed 42% of the parents polled by AVG said that they are concerned that their child spends too much time on devices, and a similar number (43%) said they were worried their child didn’t spend enough time outside.

So what does this all add up to, in the big picture?

If you have kids, it’s important to take control and limit use of smartphones by setting up guidelines.  At AVG, we offer parental controls to limit and guide smartphone usage through our Location Labs products.

After all, even Steve Jobs famously limited how much technology his kids used at home.

Thoughts on Mobile Digital Parenting

Dear Abby: My birthday is in 26 days…And I really want an iPod Touch for school. I’m in the fifth grade and everyone in my class has an iPod Touch, iPad or iPhone. EXCEPT ME!

Desperate Girl in North Carolina


This was a real letter sent recently to the venerable U.S. newspaper advice columnist Dear Abby. In her response to the 10-year-old, Abby wisely advised the “desperate” girl of some of the possible reasons for her parents’ opposition (among them, the ability to afford a device) and then encouraged the girl to talk with her parents about their concerns and how they could address them.

Digital-age parenting means there is a lot to consider about if and when is the right time for a child to get their own cell phone or other digital devices. Depending on the research you look at, between 56% (CTIA) and 30% (Kaiser) of children aged 8-12 have cell phones. In most cases, the research is a few years old – which means the percentage is likely to be much larger.

On the “pro” side a cellphone can be a great device to keep you connected to and keep track of your kids. On the “con” side, it also connects your kids more readily to the vast and not-always-friendly online world of social media, videos, games, movies, music, and TV shows and more.  Online safety and protection for our kids is a paramount concern.

In research we conducted earlier this year, 42% of parents said they worry that their child is spending too much time online. They are also unsure of what their kids are exposed to and many are uncertain as to how to keep them safe.

If your child is ready for a mobile phone, it’s important to educate them and have rules. Here are a few suggestions, starting with some rules:

House Rules

  • Consider a basic phone as a starter phone. Turn off extras if you are passing down an older model phone.
  • Set limits. Such as: Designated times the phone can be used. Number of minutes that can be used. Caps on number of texts that can be sent.
  • Block internet access and calls from unapproved numbers.

Some Do’s and Don’ts

  • Just as in the real world – never talk to strangers. Never respond to messages, emails, and texts from people they don’t know.
  • Always tell an adult if they receive any hurtful messages online… or requests from online friends to meet offline

In addition to our online and mobile security software, we’ve attempted to help parents by giving them other tools to address online safety. We’ve collaborated with the international children’s safety organization, Childnet, to create a guide to online and mobile phone safety starting at an early age, with our new Magda and Mo eBook series …The series, developed from a child’s eyes, using a series of click-and-tell stories that parents can use to help educate and foster dialogue with their kids about online safety.

Avast safeguards your teen’s smartphone

Teenagers are responsible for their smartphones. Help them keep it safe with a few easy additions.


Seven out of ten high schoolers take a smartphone to school. Not only are these phones being used for surfing the Internet or social networking, but they help kids navigate around campus, connect with teachers and other students, and follow streaming campus news. Many parents see equipping their teenager with a mobile phone as a safety tool and a way to keep in closer contact, especially if an emergency arises.

The first thing to do after buying your teenager a smartphone

Most kids are using a device with an Android operating system and no added security protection. The first thing you should do is to download a security app to protect the phone and data on it.

The newest version of avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus is out now, with a completely re-imagined user interface, making it simpler and even more user friendly than it was before. Avast! Mobile Security is free, and it will instantly begin protecting your child from downloading bad apps, protect against spyware and block malware, and backup contacts, SMS/call logs, and photos.

Install avast! Mobile Security and Antivirus from the Google Play store.



The second thing to do after buying your teenager a smartphone

High school students are busy people, with lots of activities, so it’s likely that your teen’s smartphone will be misplaced. Avast! Anti-theft is a stand-alone app that can be installed separately from avast! Mobile Security. You can use the phone locator features to find the lost or stolen phone, control it remotely, and lock it down.

Once you install avast! Mobile Security, you will be asked to set up the anti-theft module. You can read about that and the remote features you’ll have access to from your my.avast.com account in our avast! Mobile Security FAQs.

Install avast! Anti-Theft from the Google Play store.

Other things to do

  • Set up a password for the smartphone. This is easy to do and will serve as the first line of defense against nosy people and thieves.
  • Add important numbers to the contact list. Add your mobile number as well as a work line, grandparents, the school, and emergency contacts.
  • Know the school’s rules. If phone usage is prohibited during school hours or allowed only during breaks, that’s important information to know.
  • Talk to your kids about privacy. This includes a conversation about uploading photos and videos, sexting, and oversharing on social networks.

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