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British parents fork out £659 million on back-to-school gadgets for their kids

  • More than a quarter (26%) of parents plan to treat their kids to new gadgets ahead of the autumn term, spending an average £329 per family

  • A school satchel now contains £130 worth of gadgets and almost half (49%) of children take at least one gadget to school

  • Almost one in 10 (9%) have had gadgets stolen at school, while 14% have been bullied, mainly because of the brand they use

  • More kids now do their homework on tablets (24%) than desktop computers (20%)

  • Majority (80%) of parents agree technology gives their kids an educational advantage, but 66% have concerns about their reliance on spellcheck and 61% on its effect on their handwriting

As September approaches, it’s not just new school uniforms that parents are splashing out on. More than a quarter (26%) of mums and dads plan to spend a staggering £659 million – an average of £329 per family – on gadgets for their children as the new term approaches, according to new research from price comparison and switching service Uswitch.com.

Forget pens and pencils, the average school backpack now contains £130 worth of technology. Almost half (48%) of all school children now take mobile phones to school – 26% own smartphones, while 22% own feature phones and almost one in 10 (8%) carry tablets to school on a regular basis.

Almost half (49%) of children now take at least one gadget to school.However, almost one in 10 (9%) of children have had gadgets stolen at school, while around one in seven (14%) have been victims of bullying over technology. Of these, more than half (58%) were subjected to taunts about the brand of gadgets they were using.

Technology is changing the way children study, with more than a quarter (27%) of all lesson work and a third (33%) of homework now being typed rather than handwritten. A quarter (25%) of schoolchildren now submit their homework by email or via an online system set up by their schools. Interestingly, more kids now do their homework on tablets (24%) than desktop computers (20%). Another 11% even use smartphones, although the majority (38%) use laptops.

Although most parents (82%) say technology is an essential part of their children’s lives, more than four in 10 (43%) are concerned that they won’t be able to help their kids with their homework because they lack the technological nous.

And, despite the vast majority (80%) of parents agreeing technology gives their kids an educational advantage, they do have concerns about the impact this will have on other abilities. Two thirds (66%) are worried about their kids’ reliance on spellcheck, 61% on its effect on their handwritingand 60% on its impact on their mental arithmetic skills.

The average age for a child to receive their first mobile is 9 years and 10 months. Although the majority of parents (82%) who have bought handsets for their children do so for safety reasons, almost four in ten (38%) cited recreational reasons, while almost a quarter (24%) buy their kids mobiles for educational purposes too. The average age British kids receive their first tablet is even younger – at just 8 years and 7 months. Three quarters (75%) of parents who’ve bought these do so for educational purposes, while a similar number (73%) purchase them for recreational reasons too.

While almost two thirds (63%) of parents restrict the time their children spend using gadgets, eight in 10 (80%) agree that technology has made their lives easier as it keeps their kids entertained. Seven in ten (70%) parents say they have used technology – not including TVs – to keep their children quiet. Parents start distracting their kids with smartphones or tablets aged 5 years and 8 months – although more than a fifth (22%) are two years old or younger.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, says: “Kids today are learning to use gadgets even before they can walk, and parents are investing heavily in the latest tech for school too – the new term has sparked a flurry of gadget purchases.

“Slates were commonplace in schools, and it appears we’ve gone full circle, only the slates of today are touchscreen with quad-core processors and millions of apps.

“Although gadgets are great educational tools, it’s important to monitor your child’s usage to ensure they are safe online – as well as actually doing their homework.

“The connected classroom might be making it a necessity for the younger generation to have access to learning aids on their shiny new tablets, but it is important for parents to remain engaged and involved, and make sure the apps they are installing are as educational as they are entertaining.”


Maja Hauke

Phone: 0207 148 4663

Email: maja.hauke@uswitch.com

Notes to editors

Survey conducted online via One Poll in August 2014 among 1,000 UK parents with children aged 17 and under. 1.According to ONS 2012 Family Size data there were 7.7 million families with dependent children in the UK in 2012. The survey asked ‘with the autumn term approaching will you be buying any gadgets for your children’. 26% of parents said they will treat their kids to gadgets. 26% of 7.7m = 2,002,000 families. Parents were also asked what they would spend on average on all their children = £329 x 2,002,000 = £658,658,000 2.Parents were asked: ‘Considering what you’ve already spent on each of the gadgets your kids take to school with them, what do you think is the combined value of the gadgets they take to school each day in their satchels?” – 28% said £0-£100, 24% said £101-£200, 14% said £201-£300, 13.8% said £301-£400, 7.7% said £401-£500, 6.1% said £501-£600, 2.8% said £601-£700, 0.6% said £701-£800, 0.8% said £801-£900, 0.4% said £901-£1000, 1.6% said £1,000+. Mean value is £252.18. Average number of children per family is 1.93 so £252.18/1.93 = £130.66 3.Parents were asked: ‘Do your children take any of the following gadgets to school?’ – mobile phone 21.6%, smartphone 26.1%, tablet 8.4%, laptop 4.6%, e-reader 2.6%, none of these 50.8%. This means that 49.2% of children take at least one gadget to school. 4.Parents were asked: ‘Have any of your children ever been bullied over their gadgets?’ 86.1% said no, 13.9% said yes. Of those who said yes, 58% said it was because of the brand of gadget their child were using; 42% said because the bully wanted their gadget; 14% said because they don’t have certain gadgets that their friends do 5.Parents were asked: ‘Does your child rely on any of the following gadgets for homework?’ – 4.3% said mobile phone, 10.6% said smartphone, 23.5% said tablet, 38.1% said laptop, 19.5% said desktop computer, 2.2% said e-reader, 35.3% said none of these 6.Parents were asked: ‘What percentage of your child’s lesson work and homework is typed rather than handwritten?’ – the mean value for lesson work was 27.4% and for homework was 32.6% 7.Parents were asked: ‘How does your child usually submit work to their teacher’ – 9% via email, 16% via an online system set up by the school, 75% in person 8.Parents were asked if they agreed with the following statements: ‘That using technology makes my child’s everyday life safer’ (66.4% agree); ‘that using technology gives my child an educational advantage’ (79.1% agree); ‘that technology is an essential part of my child’s life’ (81.9% agree; ‘that technology makes my life easier as it keeps my child entertained’ (79.6% agree) 9.Parents were asked how concerned they were about the following: ‘That using technology will make my child’s handwriting worse’ (22% very concerned, 38.6% quite concerned, 39.4% not concerned); ‘that it will make my child too reliant on spell check’ (28% very concerned, 38.8% quite concerned, 33.2% not concerned); ‘that it will affect my child’s mental maths skills’ (21.1% very concerned, 39.3% quite concerned, 39.6% not concerned); ‘that I won’t be able to help my child with their homework as my own tech skills aren’t very good’ (14% very concerned, 28.9% quite concerned, 57.1% not concerned) 10.Parents were asked how old their child was when they were given their first mobile. The average age was taken between first and second child to give 9 years 10 months. For tablets the mean was 8 years 7 months. 11.Parents were asked: ‘Thinking about your youngest child with a mobile, why did you buy it?’ – 23.7% said for educational purposes, 38.1% said for recreational purposes, 82.2% said for safety reasons 12.Parents were asked: ‘Thinking about your youngest child with a tablet, why did you buy it?’ - 75.3% said for educational purposes, 73% said for recreational purposes, 6.7% said for safety reasons 13.Parents were asked: ‘Do you restrict the time your children spend using gadgets?’ – 63.2% said yes, 36.8% said no 14.Parents were asked: ‘Have you ever used technology (not including TV) to keep your kids quiet?’ – 69.9% said yes, 30.1% said no 15.Parents were asked when they started distracting their children with tablets and smartphones. The ages cited are means between the first and second child.

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