Your latest security headache? Ed from accounting using his kid as an unpaid helpdesk

Techie teens, not IT support, tasked with helping work-from-home parents sort out vid calls, Word and Excel files, antivirus – survey report

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Parents are turning to their kids for tech support rather than the company IT department while working from home, we're told.

A survey by consultants Prolifics Testing set out to determine what it would cost for the tech support services the average teen provides their parents, and it concluded this month kids will, on average, do about £4,200 a year in IT work.

A group of 2,664 young people aged 13 to 18 were, according to Prolifics, polled on what sort of tasks and for how much time they helped their parents with when it came to tech gear. Then, the consultancy factored in the per-hour cost of those same services on the freelance market.

On average, it's estimated the teens did about £528 in security work, £253 worth of data entry, £293 of Excel/Word support, and a whopping £590 for was termed "graphics design and online photography." This is based on hourly rates taken from UpWork, we're told.

Some of the categories listed in the survey are a bit of a stretch in your humble vulture's eyes. For instance, the "copywriting" section [er, how is that IT? – ed.] included things like suggesting social media comments and YouTube video descriptions. The "social media advice" kids were giving out to their parents was valued at £519, or £16.22 per hour on the freelance market.

"The most sought-after IT support was social media advice," the consultants claimed, "with an estimated 32 hours spent by teens teaching their parents how to be social media savvy."

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The aim of the estimates seems less about convincing cheeky teens to hand their parents a bill (IT services aside, guardians will come out way ahead in that equation what with the years of free room and board.) Rather, it appears the consultancy wanted to demonstrate to youngsters how much money they could be making if they went for a career in IT (and, conveniently enough, consulting.)

Take this info as is, and with a pinch of salt if necessary. We figured you might want a chuckle.

On a more serious note, some of the findings of the study may give companies a reason to pause. With so many employees now working from home during the COVID-19 virus pandemic, we have entered a situation where people handling organizations' sensitive data or confidential meetings are likely going to their family members for support rather than IT departments.

Specifically, Prolifics told us on Tuesday 71 per cent of the kids polled claimed their parents had asked them to solve work-related "technical issues" with their computers and devices rather than go through their company's IT helpdesk when working from home, and 67 per cent alleged setting up a Skype or Zoom call on a parent's behalf.

On average the teens estimated they'd spent about 20 hours helping their parents with security (though much of that was likely not work related) and another 19 hours helping them navigate Excel and Word documents.

Clearly, some of this data is going to be the type of info that corporate offices wouldn't want in the hands of teenagers, particularly with strict regulations like GDPR and CCPA now hanging hefty fines over the heads of so many companies should they expose customer personal information. We're not saying every kid out there can't wait to screw over mum or dad, but well, if something goes wrong, it's not your child your boss will fire. ®

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