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How quickly do youngsters in one of the world’s most advanced digital cultures begin using computers, mobile phones and other gadgets? A June 2013 report by DNA Oy aimed to find out, turning the spotlight on children in Finland ages 7 to 12. Researchers surveyed nearly 400 parents of children in that age bracket, and 100 teachers.
A fair percentage of children ages 7 and 8 reportedly had familiarity with PCs, mobile phones and even tablets. Three in 10 children of this age used a desktop or laptop, the adults said, and one in five used a tablet. Older children were more likely to use laptops and tablets, but less likely to use a desktop. Mobile phones were the stars, though, with penetration over 90% in all age groups. In fact, parents and teachers said that every child they knew aged 11 or 12 used a mobile phone.
Even the youngest children made use of their mobile phones for a wide variety of activities. Phone calls were most popular, but at least two-thirds of children also played games on their phones, and around 60% took photos—though children became much more involved in texting than picture-taking as they got older. About two-fifths of 7- to 8-year-olds listened to music on their mobile. Interest in this, too, was much higher among older children.
This breadth of activities implies relatively advanced phones, and indeed large numbers of children owned smartphones. The proportion of smartphone owners ranged from 49% among children 7 and 8 to 80% among the 11- and 12-year-olds.
These figures are intriguing in the context of overall smartphone penetration in the country. eMarketer estimates that 50% of Finland’s mobile phone users will have a smartphone this year. If anything, it seems that smartphone penetration among children ages 9 to 12 may be comparable or even higher than among the general population.
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