This week’s print edition of Time magazine (August 27) was dedicated to the way wireless is changing our world, and a few YouthBeat stats were cited regarding the age of real/ideal ownership of cell phones. Bonnie Rochman wrote, “A YouthBeat survey from the first six months of 2012 found that 13% of children ages 6 to 10 already own one. But 12 is the most common age for first-phonedom; that's when 18% of kids get theirs.” Read more here.
While the number of 6-10 year olds who own cell phones has stabilized in the past few years, and fewer might own then we might think (0% of 6 year olds and 4% of 7 year olds, meaning that most of that 6-10 year old ownership is driven by older kids). But over the past few years, the cell phones kids own have become increasingly complex. As of June 2012, a full 35% of kids 6-10 years old with cell phones were able to access apps (but 46% of kids with phones say they use an app on a typical day). 46% have web access on their phones (although 55% of those kids have a rule in their house that they can’t use their cell phone to go online).
In addition to the factors that parents previously considered when getting their young child a cell phone, they now have to grapple with a host of other capabilities that are increasingly coming standard with a cell. Sure there are other options, but many kid cell phones are of the hand-me-down variety. Suddenly, the decision isn’t only dictated by whether a child can handle the responsibility of handling a breakable device, or of making calls to appropriate people, but instead they have to wrestle with the responsibility of giving kids unfettered access to the Internet, to apps (with varied content, at varied costs) and to email. Yet 47% of parents of kids say that they keep in touch with their children via cell phone when they’re not with them. 33% say they text! (In case you’re wondering, 64% of kids with phones have unlimited texting plans). So we expect that kids will continue to keep cell phones by their side, and parents will continue to struggle with the many, many factors that contribute to the decision to buy one for them.