Many kids are entering the digital age before they are entering double digits in age.
According to Nielsen’s Mobile Kids report, about half (45%) of kids get a mobile phone with a service plan between the ages of 10 and 12, with most of them (22%) getting them when they’re 10. Beyond that, 16% of 8-year-olds are also receiving phones. The mobile child, according to the study, skews male (56% vs. 44%) and about 20% of them are Hispanic.
The majority (94%) of these kids are on their parents’ service plan, and nearly three-quarters (72%) of them have the entire suite of wireless services including voice, messaging and data.
While Nielsen doesn’t have the data to determine whether kids’ experience with phones is trending younger, the logical assumption is that it is, according to the company. Among the top usage for kids on their phones: texting (81%), downloading apps (59%), playing pre-installed games (54%) and browsing Web sites (53%).
Part of the reason for that trend may be parental peace of mind. Among the parents likely to get kids wireless service before 13, an overwhelming majority of them (90%) said being able to reach them easily (and vice versa) were the primary reasons for getting the device. In addition, 80% liked the idea that they could track their child’s location, while only two-thirds (66%) said a primary reason was because their children had been asking for it for a while.
Parents are also less concerned about the impact of digital on their kids than they are about kids’ irresponsibility. More than three-quarters (77%) said their primary concern about getting their child a phone was that it could be lost easily. To a lesser extent, parents were concerned that the phones would pose too much distraction (72%) or that their kids would spend too much time with them (71%).
While parents also cited concerns about controlling what content their kids might encounter with a smartphone, they felt features such as safety controls to block content (55%), controls to limit access (48%) and service plan options appropriate for children (34%) would assuage their fears.