Survey Says: Parents Think Tech Companies Should Help Build Kids’...


Survey Says: Parents Think Tech Companies Should Help Build Kids’ Digital Skills

By Tina Nazerian     Aug 29, 2018

Survey Says: Parents Think Tech Companies Should Help Build Kids’ Digital Skills

As the debate about children’s screen time continues to rage, a new survey commissioned by Microsoft sheds some light on where parents stand.

For one, the poll of about 1,000 parents with kids under the age of 18—conducted by public opinion and data company YouGov—found that parents have more positive feelings about their kids using tech in the classroom, as opposed to at home. Specifically, 63 percent of surveyed parents said they were concerned about their kids spending too much time on devices at home, while at the same time 86 percent of the group said they view tech in school as helpful to educating their child.

Why the difference in opinion? Larry Shannon-Missal, the head of data services for YouGov’s U.S. arm, tells EdSurge he thinks it’s because people associate tech in school with skill-building, such as learning how to code. “Whereas when they think of technology in the home, they are thinking of eyes glued to smartphones and tablets—that sort of thing,” Shannon-Missal says.

The survey also asked parents how they think technology will affect their kids’ employment prospects, an area where parents were less optimistic. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they believed technology will eliminate more jobs than it creates, but only 23 percent answered the opposite.

Parents may also want to make sure their kids are prepared for the workforce they’ll eventually enter. When considering three subjects—cursive and handwriting, a foreign language and coding and computer programming—about half of the parents surveyed saw coding and computer programming as the most advantageous subject to learn out of the three.

But to help kids work on those digital skills, parents want the government to get more involved. 67 percent of parents responded that they worry the federal and state governments are not doing enough to equip schools to build kids’ digital skills. And what’s more, there was some good news for Microsoft and its competitors in the education space—75 percent of parents said they believed big tech companies should be helping schools build kids’ digital skills.

To that end, Mark Sparvell, senior manager of education marketing at Microsoft, says the company will use this survey (and others, such as research it conducted on the skills the Class of 2030 will need to be “life-ready” by the time they graduate) to help it understand how parents are feeling, and how to “position activities,” such as events at its stores, across the globe.

Sparvell adds that these types of reports also help Microsoft produce content, such as lists of tips for parents. The information also gets passed onto Microsoft’s engineering team. He points to the report on the Class of 2030, which he says found that “everybody was focused on social and emotional skills.” As a result, he explains, Microsoft has been looking at some of its products to see if there are new ways it can position or tweak them.

“We’re iterating on our own products, out in the field, out in pilots, exploring different ways of approaching using technology.”

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