Press release:

More than a million British kids get first mobile phone by the time they’re five

  • The average British child gets their first mobile phone aged almost 12, but nearly one in ten (9%) have one by the age of five[1]
  • Parents spend an average £246 on their own handsets, compared to £125 on their children’s – but more than one in ten kids under 16 (15%) have mobiles worth more than their parents’[2]
  • More than four in ten parents (42%) don’t monitor their children’s mobile spend and just a quarter (25%) cap their kids’ contracts[3]
  • Children spend an average £11 per month on mobile bills – less than parents who spend £19 – but more than one in ten (11%) spend more than their parents[4].

More than a million British kids get their first mobile phone by the time they’re five years old[1], according to new research from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. The average age for children to get their first mobile is 11 years and 8 months – soon after starting secondary school.

When shopping for handsets, parents will spend £246 on themselves, while they’ll only fork out an average £125 on their kids’ phones[2] – enough to cover the cost of an entry-level smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy Ace or BlackBerry Curve 9320[5]. However, 15% of kids under 16 have mobiles worth more than their parents’[2]. SIM-free handsets above the £245 mark include bestselling smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 900 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini[5].

When it comes to first mobiles, oldest siblings get more spent on them. Parents with more than one child spend on average 15% more on their first-born’s first handset than on their second born[2]. Mums and dads also spend more on their first child’s phone bills – shelling out £12 per month on their oldest child’s bill compared to £11 for their second child. While parents spend £19 per month on average on their own pay-monthly mobile deals, they spend just £11 per month on average on each of their children’s bills[4].

Pay as you go contracts offer parents a way to keep tabs on children’s mobile spending and avoid unexpected bills, but more than four in ten parents (42%) say they don’t bother to monitor what their children spend[3].

Just a quarter (25%) of mums and dads wisely place caps on their kids’ contracts, which can be done simply by contacting their children’s mobile networks. And fewer than one in twenty (3%) disable the data function on their kids’ phones so they are only able to use them to call and text[3].

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, says: “As well as arming kids with mobiles for emergencies and peace of mind, I’d imagine that many parents have bought their kids smartphones just to stop them commandeering their own when bored. Smartphones are getting more affordable all the time, with entry-level models costing as little as £7 per month with a free phone or £29.99 for a SIM-free handset.

“So if you do give in to your kids’ requests, asking networks to place caps on their mobile bills takes about five minutes and is a very sensible precaution, especially if your child has a data-hungry smartphone. Make sure that when they’re at home, your kids are browsing the web using Wi-Fi instead of consuming data by connecting to the internet via 3G or 4G.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research carried out online amongst 1,420 parents with children aged under 16 years old, in July 2013.

  1. According to ONS 2012 Family Size data there were 7.7million families with dependent children in the UK in 2012, and families had an average of 1.7 children each. 7.7million x 1.7 = 13,090,000. uSwitch asked parents at what age they bought their children their first mobiles, and 9% were 5 years old. 9% of 13,090,000 kids is 1,178,100. The average age was 11 years and 8 months.
  2. Parents were asked how much their mobile and their children’s handsets were worth when new. The average value for parents’ phones is £254.56, for all children the average is £124.91, for the oldest child it’s £138.27 and for the second oldest it’s £120.
  3. Parents were asked how they monitor their children’s mobile bills. 42% said ‘I don’t monitor what they spend’, 3% said ‘I’ve disabled the data function so they can only call and text, 25% said ‘They have a capped contract’.
  4. Parents were asked how much they spend on their and their children’s monthly mobile bills. The average bill for parents’ is £18.74 per month, for all children the average is £10.60, for the oldest child it’s £11.76 and for the second oldest it’s £10.74.

SIM-free handset costs taken from Omio.com: http://www.omio.com/deals/sim-free

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