Press release:

Parents to send kids back to school with £3.2 billion of gadgets – despite half worrying tech damages social skills

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  • A child’s school bag now contains £270 worth of gadgets[1] – more than twice the value of last year’s school satchels[2]
  • Over a fifth (22%) of children carry backpacks containing more than £400 worth of gadgets[1]
  • Half of parents (50%) will buy new gadgets for their kids this autumn, spending an average of £134 per household[3]
  • A third (33%) of children rely on tablets for homework; more than one in eight (14%) use their smartphones[4]
  • Half of parents (50%) believe gadgets give their children an educational advantage[5], but 49% also fear their kids’ social skills will be damaged[6]
  • More than a quarter (27%) of schools ban all gadgets – only 11% allow gadgets and widely use them in lessons[7]
  • Almost one in 10 (9%) parents say their children have been bullied over technology, while 13% of kids have lost or had gadgets stolen at school[8]

When the school gates open in September, under 16s’ satchels will contain a staggering £3.2 billion[1] worth of gadgets – an average of £270 per school bag[1] – according to new research by uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. This is an increase of 108% on the previous school year[2].

Half of all parents (50%) will buy their school-age children new tech[3], spending an average of £134 per household ahead of the start of the autumn term[3]. More than a fifth (22%) of children will arrive at school carrying backpacks containing technology totalling more than £400[1].

The increase in spend could be down to children’s rising reliance on gadgets for homework assignments. A third (33%) of children rely on tablets to get their homework done – up from 24% last school year – while more than one in eight (14%) use their smartphones, up from 11% a year ago[4] [2].

Worried parents

Half of parents (50%) believe gadgets give their children an educational advantage[5], but almost the same proportion (49%) fear their kids’ social skills will be damaged as a consequence of their technology habits[6].

Similarly, 48% worry a reliance on gadgets will make their offspring’s handwriting worse, and 57% are concerned they’ll become too reliant on spellcheck[6]. Almost half (46%) are concerned their children’s mental maths skills will be affected, while 42% worry about the impact on their children’s verbal communication skills[6]. Half (50%) are concerned that technology will damage their children’s attention spans[6].

Almost one in 10 (9%) parents say their children have been bullied over technology[8] – either due to the brand they use, not having the latest technology, or because another child wanted to take their gadget. Sadly, 13% say their kids have lost or had a gadget stolen at school[8].

School rules

More than a quarter (27%) of schools have a total ban on gadgets and confiscate them if found, 24% only ban them from lessons, 11% allow gadgets and widely use them in lessons for educational purposes[7].

Safety first

Almost four in 10 (38%) parents agree that technology makes their children’s everyday lives safer[9] and the same proportion (38%) use their child’s gadgets to keep track of them when they are out and about, away from the home[10]. This increases with the child’s age; three in 10 (30%) parents with children aged seven use gadgets to keep track of them, compared to half (50%) with kids aged 15[10].

Toddlers with tablets

But such widespread concerns haven’t stopped many parents from buying tablets and smartphones, even for toddlers. One in five (20%) parents bought their child’s first gadget when they were under the age of four[11] and more than a third (36%) of parents don’t place any restrictions on the time their children spend using gadgets[12]. The average UK child now spends more than three hours a day using gadgets, not including time spent watching television[13].

Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, says: “As gadgets become more integral to our daily lives, it’s not surprising that parents want their children to have the latest technology, especially if it offers their child an educational advantage.

“Embracing tablets and laptops in both the classroom and with homework can speed up research, as well as lighten the load with children carting around fewer books. But many parents are still concerned about how much kids are using gadgets, and whether it will impact their social skills in the long term.

“Parents could alleviate some fears about how their child is using gadgets by setting clear boundaries for how and when they use them. By engaging with their child and making the time to use gadgets together, parents can nurture their development and help their child learn to use technology more responsibly.”

For more information visit www.uswitch.com or call 0800 093 0607

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Notes to editors

Survey conducted online via Censuswide in August 2015 among 1,002 UK parents with children aged 16 and under with at least one gadget. Throughout this survey ‘gadgets’ refers to electronic devices or technology such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, MP3 players, iPods, smartwatches and other wearable tech items. We asked respondents not to include televisions or toys.

  1. Respondents were asked: “Considering what you spent on each of those gadgets, what do you think is the combined value of the gadgets they take to school each day in their school bag? (please think about one of your children, rather than all of them)’: 4.1% said £0, 22.4% said £1-£100, 24.4% said £101-£200, 16.3% said £201-£300, 10.4% said £301-£400, 7.4% £401-£500, 6.7% said £501-£600, 2.4% said £601-£700, 2.4% said £701-£800, 1.5% said £801-£900, 0.6% said £901-£1,000, 0.9% said £1001-£1,500, 0.4% said £1501-£2000, 0.2% said £2501-£3000. The mean value is £270.11. There are 12,153,462 children aged 0-15 in the UK according to ONS Population Estimates by single year of age and sex for local authorities in the UK, mid-2014. £270.11 x 12,153,462 = £3,282,771,621
  2. Based on a survey by uSwitch.com via One Poll in August 2014 among 1,000 UK parents with children aged 17 and under. For all of last year’s figures see our 2014 press release.
  3. Respondents were asked: ‘How much do you plan to spend on back to school gadgets for your children this year? (please think about the total amount for all of your children)’: The mean value is £134.13. 49.8% won’t spend anything leaving 50.2% who will.
  4. Respondents were asked: ‘Does your child(ren) rely on any of the following gadgets for homework?: 48.1% said laptop, 32.9% said tablet, 21.6% said desktop computer, 13.9% said smartphone
  5. Respondents were asked: ‘How far do you agree with the statement ‘using gadgets gives my child an educational advantage’ 50.2% agree, 41.2% neither agree nor disagree, 8.6% disagree
  6. Please find responses below:
How worried are you about the following? Very concerned Quite concerned Not concerned
Using gadgets will make my child’s handwriting worse 15.4% 32.4% 52.2%
Using gadgets will make my child too reliant on spell check 17.7% 39.3% 43.0%
Using gadgets will affect my child’s mental math skills 14.7% 31.7% 53.6%
Using gadgets will negatively affect my child’s verbal communication skills 13.0% 28.6% 58.4%
I won’t be able to help with their homework as my own tech skills aren’t good 10.6% 23.6% 65.9%
Using gadgets will negatively affect my child’s social skills 13.4% 35.9% 50.7%
Using gadgets will negatively affect my child’s attention span 14.7% 35.4% 49.9%
  1. Respondents were asked: ‘What is your children’s school’s primary policy on gadgets?’ 27.3% said gadgets are banned and confiscated if found, 23.7% said gadgets are allowed and widely used but not in lessons, 21.3% don’t know, 11.4% said gadgets are allowed and widely used including for educational purposes in lessons, 9.2% said N/A, 4.8% said children in the school are only allowed gadgets from a certain age, 2.4% said other
  2. Respondents were asked: ‘Has your child(ren) ever had the following happen?’ 14.5% broke a gadget in the first month of owning it, 7.4% lost a gadget at school, 5.1% had a gadget stolen from school, 4.1% have been bullied about the brand of gadget they are using, 3.3% have been bullied because they don’t have a certain type e.g. a tablet, 1.8% have been bullied into giving their gadget to another child, 74% said none of these
  3. Respondents were asked: ‘How far do you agree with the statement ‘using gadgets makes my child’s everyday life safer’ – 47.8% neither agree nor disagree, 38.4% agree, 13.8% disagree
  4. Respondents were asked: ‘How far do you agree with the statement ‘I use my child’s gadgets to keep track of where they are when they’re not at home’– 37.5% agree, 32.5% neither agree nor disagree, 29.9% disagree. 30.1% parents with kids aged seven agreed, compared to 49.7% aged 15.
  5. Respondents were asked: ‘What age did you buy your child(ren) their first gadget?’ 20% selected under the age of four.
  6. Respondents were asked: Respondents were asked: ‘Do you restrict the time your child(ren) spend using gadgets?’ 64.5% said yes, 35.5% said no
  7. Respondents were asked: ‘How many hours a day does your child(ren) spend using gadgets not including TV? The mean is 3.14hrs. 0.6% said 0hrs, 15.2% said less than an hour, 55.5% said 1-3 hours, 20.3% said 4-6hrs, 4.1% said 7-9hrs, 2.9% said 10-12hrs, 0.7% said 13-15hrs, 0.5% said 16-18hrs, 0.1% said 19-21hrs, 0.2% said 22-24hrs

 

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