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Tablets are replacing traditional toys in school playgrounds, a uSwitch Tech survey reveals, laying bare how low-cost models have changed the profile of a typical slate-owner.

Previously the preserve of business users, the advent of affordable tablets, such as Tesco’s Hudl, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire, means that 3.5 million British kids under eight years old (27%) now possess a slate of their own.

The intuitive, easy-to-use touchscreen interfaces of post-iPhone gadgets also means that kids are becoming au fait with technology earlier and earlier. According to our study, nearly four million British children (29%) learned to use a tablet or smartphone by the time they were three.

More amazingly, a shade over one in ten (11%) were whizzing around menus and rows of apps when they were under two years old.

But while that easy familiarity with technology will surely stand them in good stead in later life, our poll testified to the downside of the tech boom too. Not least the addiction to gadgets that the change in society is accused of fostering.

Nowhere is that more evident than in our finding that almost a fifth of parents (16%) perceive their under 16s are "addicted" to gadgets. A quarter of the parents quizzed even admitted they thought their children would be lost without their electronic life-accessories.

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Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Once the gadget of choice for high-flyers and tech fans, the price of an entry-level tablet is now under £100, making them an attractive – and affordable – piece of kit for the whole family.

“They can also make lessons, homework and bedtime stories both fun and interactive, so it’s little wonder that more British parents are caving in to demands from their tech-savvy children.

“Most tablet-owning parents will probably find their tots commandeer their touchscreen devices anyway.”

He added: “But parents really do need to keep tabs on what their children get up to online, and lay out some ground rules, or risk having to cover the cost of bills racked up by in-app purchases - particularly in seemingly ‘free-to-play’ games.

“These can usually be disabled or placed behind a PIN within your device’s ‘settings’ menu, ensuring that little ones can enjoy a tablet without causing a big financial headache.”

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