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e2save and Netmums Survey looks in detail at when and why parents are buying mobile phones for their children.

While children may be keen to meddle with mummy’s phone as soon as they can grab, parents still believe that between the ages of nine and 11 is the best time to buy a phone, according to a new survey.

Online mobile phone retailer e2save partnered with Netmums to conduct a survey looking at parents’ attitudes to mobile phones for children, analysing when they decide their child should have their own handset and the motivations for buying them.

When people receive their first phone

Of the survey respondents who own a mobile phone, 31% received their first handset between the ages of 15 and 18, while a similar proportion got their first phone between the ages of 19 and 25. Only 15% of those polled were under the age of 14 when they got their first handset.

But what of their children? Looking solely at the survey respondents who have bought a mobile phone for their child, the majority did so when their son or daughter was between the ages of nine and 11 (53%). Just over a quarter (28%) waited until their child was between 12 and 14, but some are buying phones for their children very early indeed. Although a very small proportion, it is surprising that 1% of survey respondents have bought their child a mobile phone before they’ve even reached two years of age.

The price of staying in touch

Operating a mobile phone for your child can be a costly business, too; while the largest proportion of our survey respondents spent between £6 and £10 per month on their son or daughter’s mobile (33%) and one in five (20%) spend less than £5, 10% of those polled are spending more than £26 each month and 5% are spending more than £31.

Motivations to buy phones for kids

So why are parents splashing out such sums on their children’s phones? When we questioned parents about motivations for buying phones for their children at certain ages, ’emergencies and safety’ was the primary reason in every age group. Half (50%) of the phones bought for 12 to 14-year-olds were purchased for this reason, along with 45% of those bought for children aged nine to 11.

Communication and the ability to keep tabs on their child’s whereabouts were also important factors, accounting for 39% of motivations to buy a phone for a nine to 11-year-old and 29% for those aged between 12 and 14. Social inclusion and peer pressure, however, were not important motivations to buy for children of any age range.

children with mobile phones

Changing phones

The mobile phone market has changed dramatically in the last ten to 15 years, with the arrival of Apple’s iPhone and developments in smartphone innovation. Devices bought for children today differ greatly to the ones our survey respondents would have bought as their first phones. Finnish company Nokia was the biggest phone manufacturer in the world around 15 years ago with dominance as feature phone makers, and of our survey respondents who could remember their very first phone, 64% recalled it as a Nokia. Yet as of now, only 7% of those polled have a Nokia, as phones such as the iPhone, the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy range prove far more popular.

Commenting on the survey results, Siobhan Freegard, founder of the UK’s biggest parenting site Netmums said: “Parents cite safety and communication as the main reason for giving their child a mobile, so while nine may be young it’s the accepted age for modern children to starting to exploring the wider world – therefore it’s understandable parents want to be able to stay in touch.

“But it’s important parents realise smartphones can expose their children to the internet and to set appropriate safety controls. While mobiles allow kids to have the freedom to learn and grow, this has to balance with their security.”

Jay Karsandas, Digital Manager at e2save added: “The mobile phone landscape has changed significantly since today’s parents got their first phones, as our survey shows. Many were introduced to mobile phones through the ease of use of Nokia handsets, but parents and their children are now enjoying a much more immersive experience with phones that can do so much more than simply make calls and send text messages. What’s more, parents seem happy to pay extra for that experience, too.”