Smartphones have been incredibly useful aspects of modern life, serving as our personal computers, gaming devices and – of course – telephones. However, many of us never even saw a mobile until our teenage years. Now that the devices are more prevalent, however, people are getting into them at younger and younger ages.
Children are often excited by mobile phones, partly for the novelty value and partly because they can be used for simple games that even young minds can understand and enjoy. However, how old should kids be before being given access to these devices? What about the age at which they should have their own?
A new study from musicMagpie has revealed some of the attitudes we have towards this subject. The company's spokesman Liam Howley said: “Smartphones have become the most important piece of technology we own, connecting us with friends, keeping us updated on the world around us, and letting us capture our biggest moments.”
According to the study, most parents believe that 11 is the most acceptable age for a child to own their own phone. However, this is not a view shared by all. In fact, 25 per cent of children aged six and under already have a smartphone to themself.
These are often recycled or refurbished handsets in order to save money, with 77 per cent of parents spending under £500 on their child's phone. However, the initial cost of the device is not necessarily the main expense, as mobile data and app purchases can all cost money.
Despite this, two-thirds of respondents admitted they don't cap the monthly spend on their child's phone, which can add up to some significant costs. It can also lead to the child spending a long time each day using a mobile device, which is not necessarily the best thing for their development.
According to the survey, almost half of children under the age of six spend as much as 21 hours per week – an average of three hours per day – on their phones. This is made possible by the fact that around 80 per cent of parents do not place any limits on the time their children spend using their devices.
“The age at which children get their first phones has got even younger, and while many agree that there’s no defined age to give a child a phone, there’s a lot parents can do to ensure their child’s day-to-day life isn’t consumed by one,” said Mr Howley.
“From restricting the time they spend on the device to keeping a close eye on what they are downloading, there are many steps parents can go through to limit usage.”
The study also showed what features parents are looking for in the phones their children have access to. For example, Samsung was found to be the most popular brand for a child's first phone, with Apple coming in second place; a finding that mirrors the phones owned by adults.
With around 20 per cent of parents buying phones to keep their children entertained, it's no surprise that 38 per cent of young people use their handset to play games. Listening to music, watching videos and using the social media platform Snapchat were also popular uses, again fitting under the umbrella of entertainment.
Of course, not all parents have a defined purpose in mind when they buy their children a phone. For a third of respondents, the main reason for doing so was simply because their child had asked; although that could be anything from a simple question to months of begging and pleading.
Parents should bear in mind that you can turn off wi-fi and mobile data on phones, which may make them more appropriate for children as they can simply be used as gaming devices with apps you download for your kids. However, it is still a good idea to limit their overall use so your young one doesn't grow up glued to a screen.