Former head of GCHQ: Children learn about the virtual world via play and exploration, and attempts to limit access is damaging this important learning
The former head of GCHQ Robert Hannigan spoke out against advice that parents should limit their children’s screen and online time, saying that so called bad parenting might be good for your children and save the country.
England has a serious cyber skill shortage, we desperately need computer scientists and engineers. A report published by job site Indeed said we have the second worst cyber security skill shortage in the world.
“Traditional methods will not solve this” said Hannigan. “There are many excellent computer science and engineering teachers, but not enough. Fortunately, today’s young people have become good at learning through seeing and doing online. They are teaching themselves in new ways. It follows that the best thing we can do is to focus less on the time they spend on screens at home and more on the nature of the activity,”
Hannigan said that parents are scared because they don’t understand the virtual world but that we desperately need children to explore and learn about it. “We worry about being over-protective when they leave the house; we need to have the same debate about the balance of risk in the world of the internet.” Gaming and social media are another way of being sociable, as much as “mooching around the streets with a group of friends”.
He said that there is an assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted but this needs to be challenged. It is a view which is “driven by fear”.