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Children as Young as Five Outsmarting Mum & Dad

  • New study by British Gas and top psychologist Dr Sam Wass investigates why children interact instinctively with smart home technology and solve problems faster than their parents 
  • 71 per cent of parents say growing up around technology will positively impact children’s chances of success
  • Enter “Generation Smart”: children are becoming key decision-makers on technology in the home

Today’s children are growing up in homes undergoing the biggest technology revolution since the internet - and a new study from British Gas has revealed that kids as young as five years old are outsmarting mum and dad when it comes to technology in the home.

British Gas, in partnership with leading developmental psychologist Dr Sam Wass, has explored the positive impact smart meters and other technology will have on the next generation. Over the course of four weekends in June and July, ten families were put through their paces to see how they understand, interact with and experiment with smart technology. 


When tasked with unlocking a smart device by cracking a specially programmed code as fast as possible, children reigned victorious.  Each participant had three minutes to complete the task with children scoring better than their parents in every family, cracking the code and turning on the tablet 17.8 seconds faster on average.


Families were also shown a series of videos showing smart home technology in action and were asked questions about what was happening on screen and what was making it possible.

85 per cent of children (17 out of 20) attributed mental states (thoughts, desires, knowledge and interests) to the technology, compared with only 20 per cent of adults (4 out of 20). This task suggests that fundamental differences may exist between how children view new technologies, and how adults do.


Lastly, the children were asked to describe and draw their idea of a ‘magic house’, including their very own smart bedroom. They were encouraged to think big about what features they would have in their home. Demonstrating creativity and willingness to experiment, the children visualised magic buttons for midnight snacks, voice-controlled heating and colour-changing lighting, lollipop forests and the ability to be transported elsewhere.

Dr Sam Wass, developmental psychologist at the University of East London explains: Smart homes are a huge shift for all of us. But the next generation of children is acquiring the ability to use these new technologies at a rate that often surpasses their mum and dad. We’re calling these four to ten year-olds Generation S -- S for Smart.

“Our evidence offers insights into why children are starting to overtake their parents’ technology knowledge and capabilities. Growing up in a home that’s connected and smart, from smart meters to voice controlled lights, is fostering a generation of very tech-savvy kids.”

So what impact will growing up in a world of smart meters and other connected devices have on tomorrow’s workers, entrepreneurs, thinkers and voters?

In addition, British Gas research carried out with over 2,000 parents with children under the age of 11 years old revealed that half (50%) of parents admit their children already know more about technology than they do and are more confident using smart devices than they are.

Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with being tech savvy: more than half of parents with smart meters (52 per cent) said their child likes to understand how much energy their household is using and uses their smart energy monitor to track usage and costs. Many also admit their kids were more interested in their smart meters when installed, than they were. Of those who live in smart homes, 60% said they would be more likely to buy other smart home products if their child explained the benefits to them.

Assessing the impact on youngsters for the future, 79 per cent of parents say technology plays a vital role in education, while three quarters (74 per cent) agree that today’s generation of children will have more opportunities thanks to new technologies.

Among children of primary school age, six in ten (60 per cent) think their parents should get smart meters to help them save energy and agree that they know more than mum and dad when it comes to smart technology.

John Geen, Smart Energy Expert at British Gas, said: “As young children grow up in an increasingly smart home environment, their interest in technology such as smart meters develops much earlier in life. Soon they’ll be running these households more efficiently than their parents and using technology to save energy will be second nature to them.”

Economist Noreena Hertz comments: “We’ve had the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, Generation Alpha and Generation K. But there’s a new generation growing up in Britain. For them, the idea of a ‘smart home’ won’t seem ‘smart’ at all. It’ll be the norm. It will just be ‘home’.

“We already know that parents nowadays frequently turn to their teenage children for advice on technology. What I find fascinating about this research is it suggests that even the youngest children in “Generation S” age may be interacting with smart technologies more easily than their parents.”

British Gas is at the forefront of this movement, having installed more than 4 million smart meters in people’s homes and with 500,000 Hive hub customers in the UK. For more information on smarter, more connected homes visit 

Notes to editors

Additional assets are accessible here

About the Study
The qualitative study was conducted by British Gas and psychologist Dr Sam Wass, June-July 2017. Ten families with children aged 4 – 10 years old (each family comprised of two parents and two children) were recruited to take part in a number of smart home technology related tasks and interviews, the participants were made up of a mix of families that did and did not have smart home technology.

About the Research

Nationwide survey carried out by Opinium research in June 2017 of 2,316 UK parents of children aged 4-11 years old plus a nationwide survey of 500 primary school aged children (5-11 years old) in June 2017.
Additional survey findings are available upon request as well as further information about the study in partnership with Dr Sam Wass.

For more information contact:

Katie Rose
Senior PR Manager
British Gas
01784 84 3000
07789 575915

British Gas is Britain’s leading energy and services company, serving more than 10 million homes and over 400,000 businesses across the country. More than 8,000 highly-trained engineers guarantee the highest quality of service for our residential and business customers. We also provide a range of innovative offers and services including connected home Hive™ products, smart meters, and the online tradesman service, Local Heroes.

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