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Hesitant Parents Can't Keep Kids Away From Smartphones

Parents express interest in parental control options

July 25, 2013 | Demographics | Mobile

It’s no secret that children show a preternatural comfort with smartphones, often instinctually swiping their fingers across screens before they’ve even learned to speak.

Zact, a mobile phone services company, surveyed US parents in April 2013 on the smartphone habits of their children and found that for kids between 10 and 13 years old, having a smartphone was more common than not. In addition, two-thirds of those between ages 14 and 17 had their own smartphone.

US Children Who Own a Smartphone According to Their Parents, by Age of Child, April 2013 (% of respondents in each group)

Among parents of children with a smartphone, 37% kept their child’s smart mobile screen time—including on a tablet—limited to 1 to 2 hours per day. Another 21% of parents let their kids keep the phone in hand for between 3 and 4 hours per day. And 16% of parents did not stop their kids from staying on the smartphone or tablet even after 5 hours.

All told, 58% of parents allowed their child to scroll and swipe for 1 to 4 hours per day.

Amount of Time that US Parent Internet Users Allow Their Children* to Use Their Smart Device per Day, by Age of Child, April 2013 (% of respondents)

But just because kids are on smartphones—and for significant amounts of time—it doesn’t mean parents think their child’s device usage is a good idea. Twenty-seven percent of parents began to feel comfortable with the idea of their child having a feature phone when the son or daughter was between 10 and 12 years old. By the time the child was 12 or 13 years old, 30% of parents thought having a feature phone was OK.

For smartphones, parents wanted their children to be slightly older before they got one of their own. Twenty-two percent thought ages 12 to 13 was when it became reasonable for their child to have a smartphone, and 27% thought 14 or 15 was acceptable. A steadfast one out of 10 parents of children ages 18 or younger said they would never feel comfortable with him or her having a smartphone.

Age at Which US Parent Internet Users Feel Comfortable Giving Their Child a Smartphone vs. Feature Phone, April 2013 (% of respondents)

For manufacturers aiming to create smartphones for kids that parents can get on board with, it’s notable that most parents wanted some parental control features on the phone and said they would be more comfortable with their child using a smartphone if more of these features were available.

eMarketer estimates that 44% of children between 12 and 17 years old will use a smartphone this year. By 2017, almost three-quarters of US children in this age range will use the devices.


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