At BETT we issued a press release on parental views towards ICT, at home and at school. This was suppored by research done during December 2009 and surveyed 500 parents of secondary-school age children, so it is recent, and it will be representative.

I’ve held back on publishing it on the blog, until the BBC covered it - you can read their story “More studying on home computers” here

There seems to be a common misconception that children only use their computers at home to play games or connect to social networks. However, the research seems to suggest that instead the connection gap between the home PC and schoolwork comes not from students but from the parents who are using home PCs for social networking and uploading photos and videos. The culture of learning is changing and parents need to keep up and I can imagine across the country children are saying, ‘‘Get off Facebook, Dad, I need to finish my homework!”.

I think that due to the way that children are using PCs, there is an increasing blurring between learning-time and leisure-time and so computers in the home are becoming as important as those in the classroom.

The way that students are consuming information and engaging with each other and their teachers is constantly changing, as is the way that they learn and are motivated. There is a need for parents as well as teachers to adapt to this changing behaviour through the use of technology and programmes like Home Access. Getting parents on board, with the right skill-set to support and engage with their children effectively at home, is essential. It was good to see that two-thirds of parents felt they needed to improve their ICT skills to keep up with their children.

Here’s the start of the news release, and below I’ve put a copy of a summary of the key findings, some of which may be useful for you in conversations in school – as well as with parents!

Parental attitudes towards home PCs as a learning tool will enhance the success of the Home Access Programme

LONDON – 13 January 2010 – Microsoft has today released the findings of a recently-commissioned survey that highlights the importance of parental engagement alongside getting PCs into the hands of children that currently do not have computers at home.

The study explored the attitudes of parents of secondary school age children (11-18 year olds) across the UK and revealed that making IT in education a success is more than just about access to the right technology. In order for children to truly benefit, there must be parental understanding of PCs as a learning resource as well as effective parental engagement.

512 parents participated in the research, conducted in December 2009 and released today. The study shows that 9 of 10 children use their home computers at least once a week for educational reasons – the same percentage as those who use a school computer for study during the same period of time. The survey also found that 4 out of 10 children use their home computers for study every day, which is more than the 3 out of 10 who use computers daily at school.

Headline findings

  • The view among parents is that computers provide a key learning resource, although the lack of availability and quality of computers in the school setting poses some questions.
  • Parents are heavy computer users, with a majority describing using a computer as one of their favourite activities.
  • It is clear, however, that parents have certain concerns about IT and feel that it is their responsibility of the parent to learn about technology.
  • Fathers appear more concerned about IT and how it impacts on their children and consequent parental relationship

IT as learning tool

  • While we are all aware that to younger generations computers are hugely important, the survey illustrates the extent of computer use not simply as recreational tool for gaming or networking but as a genuine educational resource.
    • 11-18 year-olds are clearly hugely enthusiastic about their computers: for 71% it is among their favourite activities and almost all (94%) enjoy using them.
    • The big surprise is the number of children using their home computers for study. 90% use their home computer for study at least once a week: the same percentage as those who use a school computer for study. 37% use their home computer daily for study (against 30% at school).
    • 97% of parents believe computers have at least some value for their child’s learning, with 39% describing them as ‘crucial’.
    • The home computer is highly valued: 82% of parents think that their child’s computer at home is better than the one at school.
    • Almost a third of parents worry that their does not get enough access to computers at school. 27% think their child’s learning is being ‘hindered’ by their school’s poor IT resources.

Parents and their computers

  • Some of the enthusiasm for IT demonstrated among kids is likely to rub off on their parents. We found that a majority for parents are as keen, if not more, than their children on computers, and use them for a wide range of activities:
    • 99% of parents enjoy using computers, and for 65% it is among their favourite activities. A fifth say it is their favourite activity.
    • They are using their computers for a range of multimedia and social networking activities: 73% of parents have a Facebook account, 53% have uploaded photos to a website, and 28% have uploaded YouTube videos.

Parents as IT guardians

  • Despite their enthusiasm for computers, many parents are worried about their own IT skills. This derives from a need to ‘keep up’ with their kids’ often quite advanced knowledge and also the more traditionally parental instincts of nurturing and guardianship. They want to protect their children and ensure that they are getting what they need from IT.
    • Although parents already seem to be fairly technologically advanced, they still want to broaden their skills: 63% would like to know more about technology than they already do.
    • This is, at least in part, driven by their desire to help their kids: 86% look for ways to help their children in their education and, as we’ve seen already, 97% believe that technology is a benefit to their child’s learning.
    • As such, it should come as little surprise that 80% agree that it’s a parent’s responsibility to be conversant on computers.
    • 58% worry about what their child is doing on the internet, and an even higher proportion, 91%, believe that it is their responsibility to monitor what their child sees and does on the internet. Concerns about the dangers of the internet are still clearly top of mind for parents, and a key driver of their involvement with their kids’ IT activities.
    • Above and beyond concerns about skills and security, there is a not insignificant group of parents who are worried about the impact a gap in IT skills could have on the parent/child relationship. 40% agree that “The IT gap between parents and their children is harmful to the relationships of those parents and their children.”

Variance by Age and Sex

  • We see some significant differences between the populations when we look at variance by age/gender etc.
    • Men are more likely to worry about what their children are doing on-line, 63% compared to 52% of women.
    • They also are more concerned about the impact that an IT gap between parents and children can have. 47% of men feel such a gap can be harmful to relationships, compared to only 32% of women.
    • Younger parents, despite typically having greater levels of expertise and knowledge of IT and the internet also worry more about their children on-line. 64% of under 34s with children compared to only 43% of over 55s are concerned about what their children are doing on-line

You can read the full press release as a PDF here