Press release:

Half of parents want schools to ban mobile phones as children take £2.3 billion worth of gadgets to class every day

  • Children will take £2.3 billion[1] of gadgets into school this year, each carrying an average of £300[1] of electronic gear up 38% in three years[2]
  • Half of parents want schools to ban mobile phones, with one in eight saying their child’s has already done so[3]
  • Parents will spend £1.4 billion[4] up £200 million since 2016[5] on smartphones, tablets, laptops and other gadgets for their kids ahead of the new school term, paying an average of £264 per child[4]
  • Four in ten children[6] have a better phone than their parents with more than half of pupils[7] having one of the latest models
  • Nine in 10 parents[8] are concerned about letting their children walk to school with expensive technology, with a quarter[9] driving them instead
  • Parents are spending more than £13 billion a year on mobile phone bills for their schoolchildren[10]

Half of parents (49%)[3] want their child’s school to ban mobile phones, according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service – which also found that pupils now take more than £2.3 billion[1] of gadgets into the classroom every day.

Four in ten children (40%) take at least one gadget to school every day, while a fifth (18%) take two, and almost one in ten (8%) take three. More than half of children (56%) take a smartphone to school, with 15% carrying a tablet computer, 12% wearing a smartwatch and 11% using Bluetooth headphones. A quarter of pupils (26%) don’t bring any devices with them[12].

Pupils who do bring gadgets to school carry two each on average, with 14.6 million electronic devices being brought into UK classrooms every day[12]. Each tech-carrying pupil has £301[1] worth of gadgets in their school bag – a 38% increase from 2016, when parents said their children carried £219 worth of electronic gear[2].

Parents will spend £1.4 billion[4] on electronic devices ahead of the new term – up from £1.2 billion in 2016[5] – and equal to £264 per child[4]. Some 2.3 million schoolchildren are being bought a new smartphone, 1.7 million will get a tablet, and 1.6 million will be given a laptop[13].

More than half (54%) of children[7] have the latest model of phone, with four in ten (43%)[6] having a better model than their parents.

A quarter (27%) of parents[11] said they had considered downgrading their child’s smartphone to a ‘dumbphone’ that can only be used for calls and texts, to remove potential distractions. One in eight parents (13%)[3] said their child’s school had already banned phones.

Almost nine in ten (87%) parents[14] said they pay their child’s mobile phone bill in full, at £18 a month on average. It means that UK parents are forking out more than £1.3 billion[10] a year on mobile phone bills for their schoolchildren.

Almost nine in ten (88%) parents are concerned about letting their children walk to school while carrying so much expensive technology, with a quarter (23%) saying they were very concerned[8].

A quarter (26%) of parents said they were driving their child to and from school because of their concerns about safety, and a similar number (21%) had banned their offspring from walking or using public transport to get to classes[9].

Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, comments: “It’s a mark of our always-connected times that half of pupils now have their own smartphone, and the number of gadgets that schoolchildren are carrying into class every day is mind-boggling.

“It is understandable that parents are concerned about the potential distractions facing their children, but banning phones from schools is not as straightforward as it sounds, especially since technology is an integral part of modern life.

“Children are very likely to be using a whole range of gadgets when they enter the world of work, and school is one place where they should be able to learn about technology in a safe environment.

“In addition, many parents want the peace of mind of being able to contact their children in emergencies, and find out where they are if they don’t appear at home at the usual time, whether by calling them or by using an app like Apple’s Find My Phone.

“Striking the right balance is an impossible task for parents and teachers, but with the arrival of 5G, the world is going to become increasingly connected, and schoolchildren need to be able to deal with the tech-filled environment they’re growing up in.”

Find out how you could save nearly £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

 

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Notes to editors

Opinium surveyed 1,008 parents of children going to school in September from the 30th July to 5th August 2019. Results have been weighted to reflect a nationally representative criteria

  1. Respondents were asked ‘On average, what do you think is the combined value of the gadgets each of your children takes to school every day in their school bag?’ Average figure was £301.10. Total UK full and part-time schoolchildren is 10,259,840. Of the respondents surveyed, the children of 743 took a gadget to school. 743/1008 = 74%. 74% of 10,259,840 is 7,562,560 children who take gadgets to school. 7,562,560 multiplied by £301.10 = £2.277million gadgets taken to school.
  1. In a previous survey conducted by uSwitch in 2016, respondents’ average figure was £218.90. £301.10 – £218.90 = £82.20. £82.20/£218.90=37.6%.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Would you like your child’s school to ban mobile phones to reduce distractions?’ 49% answered ‘yes’. 13% answered ‘the school already has banned this’.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘How much do you plan to spend on back-to-school gadgets per child this year?’ Average figure was £263.80. Total UK full and part-time schoolchildren is 10,259,840. Of the respondents surveyed, the children of 528 would have new gadget. 528/1008 = 52%. 52% of 10,259,840 is 5,374,202 children who will have a new gadget for school. 5,374,202 multiplied by £263.80 = £1.4million new gadgets.
  1. A previous survey conducted by uSwitch in 2016 found parents were spending £1.2million on new gadgets.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Is your child’s phone a newer model than yours?’ 43% answered ‘yes’.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Does your child have the latest model of phone?’ 21% answered ‘yes’ and 33% answered that it was ‘at least one year old’ but not older than two years. 21%+33%=54% of children have a phone that is less than two years old, ie one of the latest models.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Are you concerned about letting your child(ren) walk to school while carrying expensive technology?’ 23% answered ‘very concerned’, 40% answered ‘quite concerned’ and 25% answered ‘a bit concerned’. 23%+40%+25%=88% of parents are concerned.
  1. Respondents who were concerned were asked ‘what steps have you taken to protect your child(ren)?’ 26% answered ‘I drive them to/from school myself’. 12% said ‘I don’t let them walk to/from school’ and 9% said ‘I don’t let them take the public transport to/from school’. 12%+9%=21% don’t let their child walk or take public transport to and from school.
  1. Respondent were asked ‘How much do you spend on your children’s phone bills every month?’ The average response for £18.10. 596 respondents paid their child’s phone bill. 596/1,008=59% of children have phone bill paid. 59% of 10,259,840 = 6.07million children. £18.1×6.07million children = £109million a month. £109million x 12 = £1.3billiion spent a year on schoolchildren’s phone bills by their parents.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Have you considered changing your child’s phone to a ‘dumbphone’ (a non-internet mobile phone) to remove distractions?’ 27% responded ‘yes’. There are 13,043,367 parents of somebody aged four to 18 in the UK.
  1. Respondents were asked ‘What gadgets do your children generally take to school?’ See table for responses.

Table: Gadgets children take to school

Gadget Respondents answering ‘yes’
Smartphone 56%
Tablet (iPad) 15%
Laptop computer 14%
Smartwatch 12%
Bluetooth headphones (wireless) 11%
Fitness tracker 11%
MP3 player/iPod 10%
E-reader 9%
Non-internet enabled mobile phone (‘Dumbphone’) 4%
Other 0%
No electronic devices 26%
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Which of these gadgets have you bought or will you be buying for your children’s return to school this September?’ See table for responses.

Table: Gadgets children have been bought or will be bought for return to school

Gadget Respondents answering ‘yes’
Smartphone 22%
Tablet (iPad) 17%
Laptop computer 16%
Smartwatch 10%
Bluetooth headphones (wireless) 9%
E-reader 9%
Fitness tracker 9%
MP3 player/iPod 7%
Non-internet enabled mobile phone (‘Dumbphone’) 4%
Other 0%
No electronic devices 48%
  1. Respondents were asked ‘Do you pay for your children’s phone bill?’ 87% responded ‘I / their other parent pays the bill in full’.

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