A new study by Childwise has found 53% of children are mobile phone owners by around the age of seven, and by the age of 11, nine in 10 have their own device.
Once children are in secondary school, phone ownership is “almost universal”, the report says.
The report, based on a survey of 2,167 five to 16-year-olds, found children spend around three hours and 20 minutes each day messaging, playing games and being online, and 39% of those questioned said they couldn’t live without their phone. Researchers said the findings show the extent to which phones can “dominate children’s lives”.
But should such life domination be allowed at the tender age of seven?
Research by Internet Matters , which helps parents keep children safe online, found the average age a child is given a smartphone is 10, their CEO Carolyn Bunting says: “The decision to give a child a phone is a tricky one – many parents fear it opens them up to too many risks, while others tell us it gives them peace of mind knowing they can keep in touch with their child. For young children it’s crucial devices are set up safely, making use of parental controls.
“Parents shouldn’t be afraid to set boundaries, making sure they clearly discuss what apps, games and websites their child can and can’t use, considering age restrictions, setting the necessary parental controls and when, where and for how long they can use their phone.”
Family Lives trustee and parenting expert Suzie Hayman says: “The only reason for a primary school-age child to have a mobile phone would be if they were in the tiny minority who walk to school and you or they need that reassurance, or if their parents are separated and they need contact with the non-resident parent within their own control. And it should be a simple phone and text only one, not a smartphone.”
“Smartphones are fine for secondary school kids but only after extensive discussion and agreements on rules and boundaries. Internet-enabled devices are exciting and useful, but parents and children need to understand that while they are a conduit to the world, they are equally a conduit for the world to you.”
What do you think? Are children being given mobile phones too young? Or is this a necessary part of their development in a modern world? Share your views at Speakers Corner