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Sweden’s Kids Have Wide Access to Smartphones, Tablets

Parents reveal that many children under 12 already own a smartphone or tablet—or both

Mobile devices are both popular and widely available to children in Sweden, according to recent data. Telenor Sweden, in conjunction with TNS Sifo, interviewed nearly 2,200 parents about their children's usage of smartphones and tablets in October 2013, and emerged with some rather striking results.

Sweden’s parents certainly aren’t falling short when it comes to providing digital experiences for their preteens. Researchers found that 15% of 4-year-olds and 24% of 5-year-olds had their own tablet, for example. The average age that youngsters obtained their own smartphone was 8.7 years, and by the age of 11, 88% of children had a personal handset. More than one-third of children ages 9 to 11 owned a tablet as well. In most cases where children didn’t have their own mobile devices, they had access to the smartphones or tablets of other family members.

Tablet take-up in particular seems to be increasing rapidly, researchers suggested—and many parents will favor tablets because they are easier than smartphones for young fingers to operate and the larger screens lend themselves to a wider variety of uses, including games, educational activities and video viewing.

Just one in 10 parents polled said that their children didn’t have access to a tablet or smartphone at home—half the proportion recorded in a similar survey in 2012. Several reasons were given. Some parents ruled out mobile devices for their kids on the grounds of cost, while others thought youngsters might not take proper care of these gadgets. And some said it wasn’t really necessary to provide such devices for their children at a young age.

Still, it’s likely the proportion of households where preteens have no access to smartphones or tablets will continue to shrink. Sweden already boasts one of highest levels of internet usage in the world—penetration will pass 83% in 2013—and going online via mobile is commonplace. More than half the population had a smartphone in 2013, eMarketer estimates.

Within four years, nearly three-quarters of all residents will use a smartphone. Judging by the Telenor Sweden study, children will be a significant part of that group.

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