THE BLOG

The Rise of the Teenage Tech Advisor

03/06/2013 13:36 BST | Updated 31/07/2013 10:12 BST
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The fact nearly three quarters of parents ask their children for technology advice comes as no surprise to us at John Lewis. You only have to spend five minutes in our stores on a Saturday afternoon to see the adults being led by their kids when it comes to the latest gadgets.

Our research of 1000 parents has shown it isn't a natural and comfortable fit for them with 44% using their children to help set up and use the internet. Twenty years ago the main technology worry for parents would have been asking their children how to set the video recorder. Now one in five parents need help to create a social network profile.

We are in an increasingly complex marketplace of IT and consumer electronics and if you haven't grown up with it, it can be bewildering for some and even scary for others. Four in ten still want assistance with working TV and entertainment equipment. Today's devices 'talk' to each other too and so understanding how each product fits and works together is crucial for parents.

It is clear that kids instinctively and intuitively know how to use this technology but for their parents it is a learned behaviour. Youngsters are growing up with touchscreens when using tablets and smartphones.

In fact, we often see younger children trying to touch the TV screens on display in stores to make them work. In today's world it feels like they learn to swipe before they even learn to use a pen so it's no wonder that parents are turning to their children for tech advice.

When it comes to purchasing tech for the family, in households where the children are Apple and iPhone-orientated, it may mean the parent might not get the depth of advice they need about other operating systems such as Android and Windows to make a purchase decision that is right for the whole family. Parents can use the expertise of John Lewis partners to ensure they are very well informed about the technology we sell, which can be a significant and expensive investment for parents.

We often see kids coming in with a specific 'I want this'. It is the kids leading these expensive technology buys but the parent wants a benchmark or sense check from us instore as to whether it is the right thing. Our survey also identified a trend for parents becoming a hand-me-down technology generation - having to use the gadgets their kids don't want anymore.

We see a lot of young families being trend led by their children. Their children want to have the latest and greatest equipment while the parent's need is around functionality. The child is the one who cares if it is the fifth version rather than the fourth so they tend to get the new product and the parent gets the old one. But they are still happy if they can get the usage they want and need from it.

While it's understandable that parents are turning to their kids for tech advice, when it comes to online safety, there are many risks for parents to understand and consider and a child may not be the best teacher for these. They include areas such as accessing certain content online, privacy, protection from viruses and spyware and access to spending money online buying apps or making in-game purchases. This is why it's so important for parents to get impartial advice when investing in new technologies.

More and more parents are wising up to the fact that they need to take measures to protect their children online and are looking for ways to do so. With devices becoming seamlessly integrated with the cloud and software such as Office 365, content can be shared in seconds. Parents need to know how to apply the relevant filters and restrictions to ensure that their children can share content in a safe way with an immediate circle of friends without being able to access inappropriate content or splash personal information over the open internet.

A picture taken on a smartphone can be edited by someone else on a tablet and displayed on a TV across the country without any of them being physically connected together by wires.

Content and information can disseminate much quicker than ever before and this is not an environment parents grew up in. It is all a far cry from that age-old parental worry of wondering if the timer was correctly set to record and whether a tape would run out halfway through your favourite programme.