Fifty percent of the UK’s 10-year-old owned a smartphone in 2019, according to a report by media regulator Ofcom.
The amount of young phone owners doubled between the ages of nine and 10, which Ofcom dubbed “the age of digital independence”.
In addition, 24% of 3 and 4-year-olds had their own tablet, and 15% of them were allowed to take it to bed.
Ofcom’s annual report looks at the media habits of children, and the types of devices they are using.
The 2019 study was based on more than 3,200 interviews with children and parents around the UK.
“The mobile phone is the device of choice for children,” said Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom.
The report also found that more older children were using social media to express their support for social causes and organizations, with 18% having shared or commented on a post.
Other key findings for 2019 included:
48% of girls aged 5-15 played online games, compared with 71% of boys. Boys spent twice as long playing.
Snapchat and Facebook remained the most popular social media platforms of older children, but 62% were also using WhatsApp (up from 43% in 2018)
99% of children aged 5-15 used a TV set, 27% used a smart speaker and 22% used a radio
Ofcom also interviewed parents about their concerns. It found that 45% of parents thought the benefits of children using the internet outweighed the risks, but there was an overall increase in parental concern about young people seeing content that might lead them to self-harm.
87% Of those parents with children aged between 5 and 15, had sought advice about how to keep them safe online.
“While it’s encouraging that parents are talking to their children about their media use, we must look to tech giants to protect their users and ensure they are a force for good not bad,” said Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy.
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