Kids: 'Google it' or ask parents and teachers?

Kids: 'Google it' or ask parents and teachers?

Summary: What is the first point of call for children seeking information - parents or Google?


A new study conducted by the Birmingham Science City organisation, UK, has questioned just how often children are now using search engines for information -- instead of asking living, breathing counterparts such as their parents or teachers.

The survey of 500 six to 15 year olds across the United Kingdom was conducted last month, from the 9 - 18 March.

It aimed to uncover how often the younger generation are using digital technologies as an information source rather than more traditional alternatives, such as print media, and what their personal preferences as a generation appear to be.

Dr Pam Waddell, Director of Birmingham Science City, commented:

"With children now growing up in an environment where digital technology is accepted as standard, we wanted to see just how this has affected their approach to research and exploration.

It's not surprising that with answers at the touch of the button, youngsters often Google questions before asking parents, friends or teachers."

54 percent of those surveyed admitted that Google is now their first point of call when they need to answer a question or find information for research purposes.

  • 91 percent of the children asked use Google;
  • Almost half -- 47 percent -- use the service at least 5 times per day;
  • 18 percent said they use the search engine ten times or more each day.

If Google does not provide the answers a child wants, a fifth would then go to Wikipedia to extend the search. Only 3 percent stated they would alternatively ask their teacher for assistance.

Interestingly, nearly one in ten -- 9 percent -- stated that they would 'never' go to their teachers for answers.

It is not only education professionals that now find themselves losing ground as a source of information or advice. Parents also take second place to the search engine; with 26 percent of children stating they would turn to digital services first for an answer to their query:

  • 34 percent of children aged six to 15 do not believe that their parents could help with homework;
  • 14 percent of children do not even consider their parents 'to be intelligent'.

Not every parent may be considered 'intelligent', however, a quarter of the children surveyed had no idea what an encyclopedia is -- 10 percent believing it is a cooking implement, something you travel on, use to catch a ball, or an operation instrument. Almost half have never used a print encyclopedia, and 19 percent have never used a print dictionary.

Birmingham Science City's report also found that mobile device use is on the increase. 31 percent of children involved in the study have used an iPad, Kindle or computer in order to read a book, and 36 percent do so on a weekly basis.

Image credit: Thiloleibelt


Topics: iPad, Google, Hardware, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Initiative is good

    I was certainly encouraged to look things up when I was a child, but parents would be negligent if they didn't point out that any fool can put up a website and many of them do.
    John L. Ries
  • Funny

    I don't know that kids thinking their parents aren't intelligent is anything new. I certainly thought the same when I was a teenager. Unfortunately what should have been a phase has proven itself to be true.

    I wonder if my daughter will think the same of me. I can only hope she's that smart.
  • Good on them

    I still encounter things that I took as the holy gospel of truth taught to me by my parents and teachers that were completely, unequivocally wrong. It's not like it was malicious or anything. Chances are, they learned those things from their parents and teachers. I think it's a good thing that people are looking towards unbiased places for information.

    Also, not knowing what an encyclopedia is or relying on print media isn't really a bad thing. I hate to break it to you, but they're obsolete. If you really need an analogy, think of the slide rule or abacus. They're still perfectly valid tools, and indeed, if you're skilled with them, might even do work quicker, but that doesn't change the fact that most people have never even seen one. Hell, I was a senior in high school before I had even heard of a slide rule (and that was only because my chemistry teacher still used one). The ease of a calculator has all but obsoleted those tools.
  • Wisdom is far more important than mere knowledge

    and parents are usually still the best sources for that.
    • Parents are a good source

      But not the only ones by any stretch; and how good will vary greatly.
      John L. Ries
  • I are not smart

    Or, at least my 11-year-old son thinks I'm not intelligent.

    I'm a mechanical engineer of 20+ years, so math and physics is fun for me. I'm a musician, an illustrator, and a professional video editor/producer. I devour books on quantum physics and astronomy and study those subjects extensively. I'm not a genius on any one of those subjects, but I know more than enough to be dangerous, and I get paid for doing two of them. The only thing I know for sure is that I don't know everything.

    Okay, my arm is getting tired from patting myself on the back. ;) All I really wanted to point out is how ridiculous it is for my son to tell me. "You don't know how to do this", when he needs help with multiplying mixed fractions. Last week, it was a disagreement about elements and the periodic table. I present F=ma for his science fair project and he thinks I'm making it up! Sigh...

    Now, if he was diagramming a sentence, I would do more harm than good.