A quarter (25%) of British ‘Generation Alpha’, children born after 2010, would rather spend time on their iPad, tablet, smart speaker or other devices than socialise with their peers in person, according to exclusive online research from global cloud communications platform Infobip.
The research, commissioned with global public opinion firm YouGov, polled British children aged 6–11 years old and found that a fifth of girls (20%) and nearly a third (30%) of boys have chosen spending time with devices over spending time with friends in person.
The survey aimed to assess the impact technology has in children’s lives at home and at school in a unique study which polled children directly.
Results reveal strong appetite for the use of technology in the classroom: two-thirds (67%) of 6-11 year olds would like to use a tablet for learning in school, and over a third (35%) believe VR headsets would make a welcome addition to the classroom.
In fact, nearly two-thirds (64%) would like to use laptops in classrooms, three-fifths (61%) would like to use smartboards, and a third (32%) would like to use smartphones. Meanwhile, nearly half (48%) of Generation Alpha already use their own devices for schoolwork.
The research also found that:
- Two-thirds (66%) of Generation Alpha started using tablets such as iPads by the age of five or younger. Incredibly, a third (34%) of Generation Alpha children have used a tablet by the age of just three years old or younger.
- Two-fifths (42%) say they have been speaking to smart speakers from the age of six or younger.
- Half (48%) of Generation Alpha spend at least an hour a day on their iPad or tablet.
In terms of the most popular ways to communicate, over a third (37%) of 6–11-year-olds surveyed are on WhatsApp – with nearly three-quarters (73%) of 11 year olds well-versed in this channel. SMS isn’t far behind, with almost a third (29%) of Generation Alpha still using this more traditional texting method and a third (35%) using Facetime.
Catherine Thevenot, Professor in Cognitive Developmental Psychology at the University of Lausanne, said:
“Generation Alpha has embraced technology like no generation before it. With the advent of the virtual classroom, the pandemic heightened reliance on tablets and laptops, with video-conferencing replacing the white board, and keyboards replacing pencils and paper. Children are now back in classrooms, but the way they have learnt over the past two years will shape the way they view the world and how they study – and after that, the world of work – for decades to come.
“With these rapid technological changes, the impetus is on the adults in their lives to guide them to use digital tools for learn and play in the most positive and safe way possible – both in the home and the classroom – to ensure these digital experiences will enrich this future generation as potential employees and active citizens.”
Giuseppe Perrone, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Infobip, said:
“Despite all the headlines about Millennials and Generation Z, it is Generation Alpha who have been surrounded by technology since the moment they were born. They are learning habits that are radically different from the ones older generations developed at an early age. They are accustomed to a world of efficiency and smart technology, so when they’re presented with problems, they expect to be able to receive swift answers and solutions.”
To better understand the opinions of teachers, as well as identify challenges and solutions, a focus group was organised by Roots Research, to which teachers from across the UK were invited to share their perspectives.
Points of view from teachers in the UK*
Age of the children in their classrooms
Teacher in Brighton, East Sussex
“I think that the jobs Generation Alpha children will have when they grow up do not even exist yet.”
Teacher in Brighton, East Sussex
“Both boys and girls are really enjoying and embracing the use of technology equally. When I now ask some of the girls what they want to be when they are older, many of them say they would like to be a gamer, so it’s no longer seen as a ‘boy thing’ to do.”
Teacher in Solihull, West Midlands
“There are positives to technology, however, I have found there are some downsides: kids who are glued to devices are lacking in their communication and social skills. For some children who use tech in the wrong way, overuse of these devices is having a detrimental effect.”
“Kids have iPads at home but the way they use them at school differs. Our very first lesson for each term is internet safety. We must train kids on how to use technology safely and what they can do, and who they can turn to, if something doesn’t feel right. It’s so important that this first lesson is spent drilling e-safety into their heads.”
Teacher in Oldham, Greater Manchester
“We’ve kept on using software on iPads and computers for homework which were first introduced due to lockdown. We have kept this on as it engages children better particularly if there are recorded clips from teachers.”
Giuseppe Perrone, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Infobip concludes:
“When implemented correctly, technology in the classroom can be a great tool to engage children and inspire learning. Outside of the classroom, technology is all around them, both as an aid to learn, as well as play. It is up to the adults in their lives – both parents and teachers – to ensure this technology is used positively, inclusively and safely.”
* The quotes were gained from a focus group that took place on the 10th of November 2021 and was organised by Roots Research.