58% of Icelandic Children Internet Users Before Age of Two

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58% percent of Icelandic children have begun to use the internet before the age of two, a report from an Icelandic professor reveals. The ratio was 2% only six years ago. There are clues that the English language is beginning to affect the Icelandic language proficiency of children with Icelandic as their native tongue, RÚV reports.
This extensive study examined the effects of technological changes on the Icelandic language and its future, as well as focusing especially on how English is affecting Icelandic.
“Substantial changes are taking place in our linguistic surroundings, our attitude and language use, especially for young people. The prevalence of English in the language has increased significantly for children and teenagers,” said Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, a professor in the Icelandic at the University of Iceland.

The difference in a 6 year time span is astounding, as 2% of children had begun to use the internet before the age of two in 2013. This number has now gone up to 58% in 2019. “Eight percent of children today started to use smart devices before the age of one,” Sigríður stated.

The Icelandic accent, while speaking English, was also studied. It was revealed that young children who have not begun formal English studies in schools spoke English flawlessly. That is, they did not have an Icelandic accent while speaking English.

Children have also increasingly started to speak English with each other, rather than Icelandic. 29% of six to seven years sometimes speak English with their Icelandic speaking friends, and the same is true of 47% of eight to nine-year-olds.

Sigríður notes that individuals’ language proficiency is shaped in infancy and that English is now very prevalent in children’s surroundings.

“There are clues that these changes which are happening, and happen incredibly quickly, are potentially affecting our Icelandic competence. We need to place an emphasis on children and teenagers and somehow try to increase the prevalence of Icelandic in their language surroundings by creating exciting material in Icelandic. We need to have proficiency in a native language for the natural development of the brain, and if we don’t achieve that it could have serious consequences,” Sigríður stated.

„Það eru svona vísbendingar um að þessar breytingar sem eru að verða og eru gífurlega örar séu jafnvel að hafa áhrif á málkunnáttu okkar í íslensku. Við þurfum að leggja megináherslu á börn og unglinga og einhvern veginn að auka íslenskuna í málumhverfi þeirra með spennandi efni á íslensku. Fyrir eðlilegan heilaþroska þarf maður að hafa móðurmálsfærni í einu máli og ef það næst ekki þá getur það haft alvarlegar afleiðingar,“ segir Sigríður.