Generation Z – the kids who know more than you do

Think Progress Team

Monday 2 February 2015

From editing videos to coding websites, the tech trends we’re just starting to get our heads around now will be second nature for kids in a few years. So what does the tech landscape look like for the next generation?

Last September the new computing curriculum came into force, with children as young as five now learning to code. Primary schools kids are being taught what algorithms are, writing and debugging simple programs of their own, and using devices to “create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content”.

By age 11, they will be able to create reasonably sophisticated software, have grasped the basics of computer networks and will understand how search results are selected and ranked. It’s fair to say the next generation will acquire more technical know-how in primary school than the majority of adults have done in a lifetime.

But, in many ways, kids growing up in the web 2.0 world are already far more comfortable with digital technology than their parents, with the youngest now reported to be learning how to operate smartphones or tablets before they are even able to talk.

According to research from the UK’s communications watchdog, Ofcom, many six-year-olds understand more about digital technology than the average 45-year-old adult, with children today developing fundamentally different communication habits than older generations.

For example, 77 per cent claim to know a lot about smartphone or tablet apps compared to 55 per cent of adults, while a third were using apps such as Snapchat (compared to 12 per cent of adults), according to the 800 strong sample of 6-15 year-olds questioned.

But although kids may be taking to digital technology like fish to water, there is still a definite need for adult support in our brave new digital world.

A study by Shiang-Kwei Wang of the New York Institute of Technology, published in the journal Educational Technology Research & Development, believes that digital native kids still need traditional adult supervision. “School-age students may be fluent in using entertainment or communication technologies, but they need guidance to learn how to use these technologies to solve sophisticated thinking problems,” she argues.

While there is a growing number of digitally savvy ten-year-olds, it’s worth remembering that knowledge does not amount to wisdom. No doubt we’ll be learning a lot from our children in the near future about how technology works. But when it comes using it appropriately, adult input will be as essential as ever.

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