Look out; we're raising a generation of robots. OK, that might be overstating things a bit, but a new study has found kids aged 2 to 5 years old have better phone skills than basic life skills, according to the Daily Mail. Netherlands-based AVG Technologies, makers of antivirus software, has run a series of studies involving technology and children, and the results might seem a bit shocking to anyone who doesn't have a preschooler at home. AVG opens with a scary statement: "Small children today are more likely to navigate with a mouse, play a computer game and increasingly – operate a smartphone – than swim, tie their shoelaces or make their own breakfast." That's pretty disturbing on its face, but remember, these are 2- to 5-year-olds they're talking about. Do we really expect kids who can't wipe their own butts to be capable of whipping up an omelette?
The study found that 58 percent of kids surveyed could play a basic computer game and 19 percent could operate a smartphone app, while only 9 percent could tie their shoelaces, to which I respond, this is why we have Velcro. Shoe tying requires fine motor control that most kids that age just don't have. According to developmental-behavioral pediatrician Julie Lumeng, M.D., via Parenting, that's more of a 6-year-old skill, and some don't get the hang of it until they're almost 8. Meanwhile, one doesn't even need thumbs to fling an Angry Bird.
The study also warned that more kids can open a web browser better than they can swim (25 versus 20 percent), which is terrifying until you realize that opening a browser literally takes one tap of a finger, whereas swimming is a complex skill that some adults, including the one typing this sentence, have yet to master. AVG noted that 29 percent of young kids can make a call on a mobile phone, which I'd argue is a life skill; being able to dial 911 in an emergency is surely more important than knowing how to ride a bike (which 43 percent of 2 to 3-year-olds can do, AVG found, but I think their parents are probably lying liars).
One interesting, non-alarmist takeaway is that kids with older moms tend to be slightly better equipped with non-digital life skills; the study found that 40 percent of toddlers with moms over 35 can write their own name, versus 35 percent of those with younger moms. Are millennial moms relying more on iPhones than crayons? Maybe a little. But that doesn't mean that computers should be cut out completely; even the American Academy of Pediatrics has loosened up its screen time policy. It's 2016, and computer skills are life skills. As an adult, I open a browser window every day, but I rarely tie a pair of shoes (flip flops for life). It's fine to teach kids how to use technology, as long they're also learning low-tech skills, too.