Hannigan believes that young people need to explore the digital world just as they explore the physical world to learn about computers.
A former British spy chief says parents should let kids spend more time online so they will learn vital cyber-skills, countering the conventional parenting advice. Robert Hannigan, ex-director of government electronic surveillance agency GCHQ, challenges "the assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted."
Writing in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Hannigan said: "We need young people to explore this digital world just as they explore the physical world."
Hannigan, who stepped down earlier this year, says Britain desperately needs more computer scientists and engineers, and one way to produce them is for children to learn "through seeing and doing online."
He tells parents unable to drag their children away from screens: "Do not despair. Your poor parenting may be helping them and saving the country."