70% of children in the UK have mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, by the age of 10. In a sweeping piece of research on children’s mobile usage by security company BullGuard, it was also revealed that most parents’ desire to equip their children with mobile devices is driven by the age-old parental anxiety of knowing where their kids are.
The nationwide survey of 2,000 parents also revealed that the most popular age for children to receive their first mobile device is 10 years (16%), though the UK average is 8 years, and it’s not unknown for even 3 year olds to have mobiles (2%). Children in England are more likely to be given a mobile device under the age of 5 compared to their counterparts in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Most parents, 42%, said they give their children mobile devices so they can easily stay in touch with them. But 37% said it helps them with their homework, while a reasonably large 31% bowed to peer pressure and said they didn’t want their children to feel left out. A not inconsiderable 25% also said they did so because it keeps the kids quiet.
The majority of parents across all children’s age ranges, 44%, cite stranger danger as the thing they most worry about when the kids are cruising the internet. Alarmingly, almost 60% of children between the age of 7 and 10 have Facebook accounts. The minimum age for Facebook users is 13.
46% of parents with children aged between 11 and 14 said online stranger danger was their biggest concern. 41% of parents with children aged between 7 and 10 cited the same reason.
Over a third of parents with children under the age of 10 said they feel like they don’t talk to their children enough about online dangers while almost 30% with children aged between 11 and 14 said the same. 16% of parents with kids under 10, and 12% with children aged between 11 and 14, said they never talk to their children about online danger.
38% of parents have taken their kid’s mobile devices away with 48% saying they spend too much time on it and 25% saying their behaviour was worse after spending time using their mobile devices. 24% of parents had removed the devices because they felt their children had abused their trust.
Despite the encyclopaedic knowledge available to children online 72% of parents would rather their kids ask them about things they are curious about rather than stumble across something. Only 8% said they would prefer their children to search online for something that might cause them embarrassment.
To protect their children 43% of parents check internet history, with 36% checking it weekly. Yet 20% believe their kids are tech savvy enough to know how to delete search histories.
Cam Le, CMO at BullGuard, said: “These findings provide a snapshot of how the nation’s parents and children are handling the surge in mobile technologies. The survey reveals that most children are using smart mobile devices before the age of ten. Parents are clearly well intentioned and are providing their children with devices for the best motives.
“However, there are clear concerns, for example, anxieties about children being approached online by strangers. This isn’t helped by what are clearly large numbers of children between the age of 7 and 10 having Facebook accounts when it’s well known that predators use social networking sites to seek out vulnerable children.”