CHILDREN growing up in the digital age are no better at using modern technology than their parents, according to an inter­national expert.

Dr Dan Russell, senior research scientist for internet search company Google, said the "myth" the younger generation were highly skilled at using the internet was damaging their education.

He went on to call for schools, colleges and universities to provide dedicated lessons to pupils and students on how to get the best use out of the internet - with teachers at the centre of the learning.

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Mr Russell, who is based at Google's headquarters in California, was visiting Scotland to deliver a lecture in the importance of digital literacy at Strathclyde University, Glasgow.

He said: "There is a myth about the digital native and the Google generation kid who, because they are young, are seen as being more computer literate than their parents, but that is totally wrong.

"Kids can be very fluid and fast with computers, but they are only fast when they are doing something they have had a lot of practice in.

"When you watch a 12-year-old playing a game like Minecraft they are so fast you can barely understand what is going on and if you watch a 14-year-old doing Facebook you would see the same thing, but if you move the Facebook person into Minecraft they are lost and vice versa."

Mr Russell said research showed the way younger users of technology learned skills came from interactions with their friends rather than formal education.

"This is a huge disservice because, certainly in the US, lots of colleges have stopped their information retrieval courses and they assume falsely that students know this stuff and I think it is pretty clear they don't.

"We are doing a terrible disservice to our students by not making research a crucial element of the curriculum. It has to be because, in a world where these things are changing rapidly, if you don't have the skills to be able to keep up you will be stuck in the past."

Mr Russell's talk explored the changing definition of literacy at a time when it is possible to search billions of texts in milliseconds over the internet.

He said: "Although you might think literacy is one of the great constants that transcends the ages, the skills of a literate person have changed substantially over time as texts and technology allow for new kinds of reading and understanding.

"Knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, how to interpret the texts you find, how to organise and use the information you discover are all critical parts of being literate as well."

Professor Ian Ruthven, head of Strathclyde University's department of computer and information sciences, which hosted the lecture, said search engines made it much easier to find information, but being able to intelligently assess and use it was much more difficult.

He said: "Providing new ways to overcome barriers to successful information use is one of the central themes of our department's research and teaching activities."