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3.5 million British kids under eight now have tablets

  • More than a quarter of  British kids (27%) have a tablet by the time they are eight years old

  • Nearly 4 million kids in Britain (29%) first learned to use a tablet or smartphone by the time they were three – one in ten (11%) were under two years old

  • Parents spent £5.6 billion on gadgets for their kids in 2013 – splashing out £462 each on average

  • Nearly a fifth of parents (16%) believe their under 16s are “addicted” to gadgets, while more than a quarter (26%) say their kids would feel lost without them

  • More than one in ten kids (12%) have run up bills on their tablet or smartphone through in-app purchases.

A staggering 27% of British children under eight years old – around 2.1 million kids – now have tablets, according to new research from Uswitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. And children in Britain really are early adopters, with nearly 4 million UK techy tots first mastering touchscreen tablets and smartphones aged three years or younger. More than one in ten (11%) were under the age of two.

At least eight in ten parents (84%) splashed out on tech for their kids in 2013, spending £462 each on average, or £5.6 billion collectively. The majority of that spend – £3.2 billion – was on gadgets for Christmas alone.

If you think that’s generous, over a third (36%) of mums and dads expect to spend more on gadgets for their children in 2014. Just a quarter (25%) reckon they spent too much on gadgets for their kids last year. Children are most likely to own games consoles – more than nine in ten (91%) parents say that their kids own at least one.

Nearly a fifth of parents (16%) believe their under 16s are “addicted” to gadgets, while more than a quarter (26%) say their kids would feel lost without them. This could explain why almost three quarters (71%) limit how many hours their children spend using technology.

But parents might also want to keep a watchful eye on how their brood uses smartphones and tablets, as the research also revealed that more than one in ten kids (12%) have racked up unexpected bills by making in-app purchases on tablets and smartphones.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, says: “The term ‘early adopters’ now has a whole new meaning, with today’s kids knowing their way around the latest tech before they’re out of nappies.

“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.

“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.”


Katherine Moss

Phone: 020 3021 5893

Email: katherine.moss@uswitch.com

Twitter: @uswitchPR

Notes to editors

Research carried out online amongst 1,740 UK adults in December 2013.

  1. According to ONS 2012 Family Size data there were 7.7 million families with dependent children in the UK in 2012, and families had an average of 1.7 children each. 7.7 million x 1.7 = 13,090,000. Uswitch asked parents with kids under 16 when they first got their own tablet. 26.7% said under 8 years old. *26.7% of 13,090,000 kids is 3,495,030

  2. Those with kids under 16 were asked ‘At what age did your child(ren) first learn use a tablet or smartphone?’ – 10.7% were under 2 years, 17.8% were 2-3 years. Therefore, 29% were 3 years old or younger. 29% of 13,090,000 kids is 3,796,099.

  3. 35% of our respondents have kids under 16 - 35% of 44.9 million UK adults (according to ONS figures) is 15,714,999. 68% of 15.7m is 10.6m. 10.6m x 225.20 = £2,406,532,014. Of those who have children under 16, when asked “How much have you already spent this year/ plan to spend at Christmas on gadgets for your children in total?” the average amount parents plan to spend was £242.85. Based on 35% of respondents having kids under 16 - 35% of 44.9 million UK adults is 15,714,999. 84% of 15.7m is 13.2m. 13.2m x 242.85 = £3,205,765,467. And £2,406,532,014 + £3,205,765,467 = £5,612,297,481

  4. Those with kids under 16 were asked ‘Thinking about your children’s relationship with gadgets, which of the following statements do you most agree with? 16.3% said ‘they’re addicted to their gadgets’, 26.3% said ‘they’re very reliant on their gadgets and would feel lost without them’

  5. Those with kids under 16 were asked ‘Have your children ever run up a bill from using paid-for tablet or smartphone apps?’ – 87.7% said no, 12.3% said yes

  6. Those with kids under 16 were asked ‘Thinking about how much you spend on gadgets for your children, which of the following statements do you most agree with?’ 11.2% said ‘I spend too much money on gadgets for my children, and will spend just as much next year’, 14.2% said ‘I spend too much money on gadgets for my children, but will try and cut back next year’,

  7. Those with kids under 16 were asked ‘which of the following gadgets do your children own or will you be buying them for Christmas?’ 90.9% said games console

  8. Those with kids under 16 were asked ‘ Do you limit how many hours your child(ren) spend using technology? 71.1% said yes, 28.9% said no.

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Uswitch is the UK’s top comparison website for home services switching. Launched in September 2000, we help consumers save money on their gas, electricity, broadband, mobile, TV, and financial services products and get more of what matters to them. Last year we saved consumers over £373 million on their energy bills alone.

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