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Young children switch to tablets as mobile ownership declines

The amount of children owning a mobile phone is decreasing, according to research from Ofcom, with increasing amounts of youngsters preferring to use tablets to access the internet.

It’s one of the findings from Ofcom’s Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes report. This looks at how young people access media and the role parents play in overseeing them.

This is the first time since the survey began in 2005 that mobile phone ownership for children between 5 and 15 has dropped (2012: 49%, 2013: 43%). It was mainly because those aged between 8 and 11, who owned a basic mobile (not a smartphone) fell from 28% (2012) to 15% (2013). Of this age group 18% own a smartphone and the same proportion own a tablet – this is a four-fold increase over the year.

The older children (12-15) prefer smartphones, with 62% owning one, but their tablet ownership has also shot up to 26% (2012: 7%).

While mobile devices are seeing increased popularity, usage of the more traditional ones – ie laptops, netbooks and desktops dropped from 85% in 2012 to 68% in 2013.

Children with smartphones sent around 184 instant messages every single week, with 12-15 year olds sending about 255 texts messages a week (up from 193 in 2012).

The report also looked at where they accessed the internet, with around 1 in 5 8-11 year-olds saying they did so in their bedroom. This coincided with a drop in the number of televisions and games machines being in bedrooms.

Social media has also seen a surprising dip, with fewer children than last year saying they had a social media profile (2013: 68%, 2012: 81%).

Almost all those with access to social media have a Facebook profile (97%), but Bebo usage has halved (4%), while Twitter has increased (2013: 37%, 2012: 25%).

Of computer safety, the majority of parents say they know enough to keep their children safe online, but half feel their child knows more about the internet than they do. Monitoring includes talking to children about safety (79%), having parental supervision rules (53%) and using technology (62%).

One in four parents (24%) of 5-15 year old internet users is concerned about cyberbullying, while one in seven (14%) said they were concerned about their child cyberbullying somebody else.


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