The data from Ofcom’s latest report into children’s media habits isn’t just confirmation of deep and irreversible trends. It also suggests that we may have crossed some important thresholds.
The fact that half of the ten year-olds in Britain now own a smartphone is extraordinary of course. These kids don’t know a world without the world wide web. What is really striking, however, is the sense among parents – quite possibly justified – that the dizzying rate of innovation online, and proliferation of platforms, makes it harder than ever for them to know what their progeny are up to.
If two million parents think that the costs of the web outweigh the benefits, we may be approaching a moment when a critical mass of citizens – and voters – decide a fundamental re-set is needed.
As the thoughtful, charming, and impeccably well behaved pupils of St Paul’s Catholic School in Milton Keynes told me yesterday, they now feel physically connected to the web. It’s part of them. I found their honesty refreshing. They know they are addicted. They know their parents are right to restrict access to the web and occasionally tell them off.
But if all their mates are online, they need to be too.
Such is the intensification of their digital lives that I struggle to conceive what we’ll worry about years from now when some of these guys become parents. I’m hugely grateful to them for their time – and to our agile cameraman Nigel Craze, peerless producer Elizabeth Needham-Bennett, and heroic studio editor Kavi Pujara.
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