Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge were on a royal engagement at the Children’s Global Media Summit in Manchester today (Wednesday 6 December), where the father-of-three was attending as a keynote speaker.
He used the platform to openly express his concern about the “slow creep” of tech into young people’s everyday lives.
Speaking about his son George, 4 and daughter, Charlotte, 2, he said: “Parents like Catherine and me are raising the first generation of digitally-immersed children – and this gives us many reasons to be optimistic about the impact of technology on childhood.”
He listed positives including children being able to maintain global friendships and learn about other people and cultures with “previously unimaginable ease”, however, he acknowledged that it also presents problems.
“I am afraid to say that, as a parent, I believe we have grounds for concern,” he said.
The Duke spoke extensively about what he feels is an “alarming situation” unfolding in the parenting world, as families are “having to make up the rules as they go along” and they need to be given more support to do this correctly.
“I entered adulthood at the turn of the millennium,” he said.
“The generation of parents that Catherine and I are a part of had understood the world of mobile phones, the internet, email, and the like for some time. We had every reason to feel confident.”
Especially as the changes that were introduced were slow-burning and gradual.
“It is the gradual nature of this change – the slow warming of the water in the pot if you like– that I believe has led us to a moment of reckoning with the very nature of childhood in our society,” he explained.
Citing Ofcom research which revealed children between the ages of five and 15 spend an average of two hours a day online, he explained the landscape has now changed “dramatically” and without most parents “pausing to reflect” on what is happening.
The 35-year-old said: “Now, I am no Luddite – I believe strongly in the positive power of technology; but I am afraid that I find this situation alarming.
“We have all let technology slowly creep into our lives. And now we are waking up to the enormity of the challenge technology and modern digital media will mean for children.”
He also made reference to how this was allowing cyberbullying to become more prolific than bullying in playgrounds had ever been before.
“The technology we put into the hands of our children had for too many families shattered the sanctity and protection of the home.”
And explained that in his role as an Air Ambulance pilot, he had seen the consequences of bullying: “I was called to the scenes of suicides and I witnessed the devastation and despair it brought about.”
During their meeting, the Royals also paid tribute to the community in Manchester following the Manchester arena bombings earlier this year.
“You may have seen, if you have had a chance to go outside, the symbol of the bee everywhere in the city,” he said. “The bee is Manchester’s symbol, a reminder of this city’s industriousness and creativity.
It is also a reminder of Manchester’s community spirit, the sense of pulling together. Manchester has had a tough year, and I personally stand in awe of the way that the people of Manchester have united in bravery and support of one another.
“This community is a great example to all of us, wherever we are from.”