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Smartphones in the Hands of the Youngest Demographic

Almost two out of 10 kids use smartphones

Kids are learning earlier than ever to swipe and scroll on smartphones. Harris Interactive surveyed online US students in February 2013 on behalf of Pearson and found that 19% of elementary school students used smartphones and 42% of middle school students did so as well. Elementary school consisted of grades 4 and 5, while middle school represented grades 6 through 8.

The home is where many kids encounter their first smartphone. A Grunwald Associates and Learning First Alliance study in November 2012 found that in 77% of surveyed US households with school-age children, someone in the family owned a smartphone, nearly equal to the penetration rate of PCs in such households.

And kids are highly likely to pick up those phones and begin navigating their capabilities. The study found that 43% of children ages 3 to 18 used the smartphone, with 65% of that group doing so on a daily basis. The broader age range of children surveyed explains the different penetration rates between the Pearson study and Grunwald’s research.

While PCs were in more use overall than smartphones among children in Grunwald’s study, kids were more likely to use smartphones on a daily basis.

Dividing up usage by grade level, Grunwald found a much lower penetration rate of 8% for those in grades 3 through 5. The inclusion of third grade likely lowered the penetration rate. Additionally, the survey asked parents about their children’s usage, as opposed to the students themselves. This could also tamp down the survey’s figures, as parents may not be aware of just how common it is for kids to reach for their parents’ smartphones.

Compared with either of the studies’ findings, eMarketer estimates much lower smartphone penetration of 3.2% among US children ages 0 to 11, with the lower end of the age range pulling down that rate. By comparison, among those ages 12 through 17, eMarketer estimates smartphone penetration will reach 44% this year.


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