Demand amongst five to 16-year-olds for digital devices means that each child in the UK commanded an average ‘tech-spend’ of £537 in the past year alone, with spend peaking for seven year olds at £761. According to research by shopping comparison site Kelkoo, more than 91% of UK school children have received a wealth of sophisticated products in the past 12 months, with each child owning an average of four gadgets. This increases from two per child at the age of five, to just over four at the age of 11, reaching five by the age of 16.
The most in-demand technologies amongst five to 16-year-olds are games consoles, owned by 58% of children, closely followed by mobile phones (52%), MP3 players (48%), laptops (35%) and digital cameras (35%). Among junior school children (age seven to 11), 47% own a mobile phone, 44% own an MP3 player and almost a third have their own laptops (30%). Children are also starting to embrace latest generation technologies with over one in ten (11%) now owning a smartphone, 7% owning a netbook and 3% with a tablet PC.
A third (31%) of all digital devices purchased for children in the last year offer web access, yet one in five parents (21%) admitted they never take control of their children’s internet access and 43% occasionally keep a check. This figure is even higher amongst parents of children aged five, with almost a quarter (23%) revealing they never implement parental controls and less than a third (32%) enforcing restrictions every so often.
The research also reveals that nine out of ten parents (90%) recognise that technology now forms a vital part of a child’s development and 84% agree that having the right devices helps with school work. On the flip side, technology also gives some parents cause for concern. Almost two thirds (60%) worry that buying expensive digital devices makes children more attractive to thieves and a similar number (59%) believe there is undue peer pressure on youngsters to have all the latest gadgets.
John Carr, Executive Board Member, UK Council for Child Internet Safety, comments: “Technology is a fundamental part of modern schooling, so it’s really important that children learn to use these digital devices properly. Despite the majority of parents accepting the need for children to have access to these gadgets, it’s really worrying that so many fail to use parental controls on devices that have internet access. We all know that being a parent is not an easy job, and there could be a number of reasons why they aren’t – including a lack of awareness. If this is the case, I would strongly encourage parents to take a few simple steps to protect their youngsters and enable them to stay safe as they surf.”
Junior school children had more money spent on them than any other age group, receiving £595 worth of digital devices last year, closely followed by secondary school children with £592 worth of kit. The research also shows the emergence of true ‘techno-tots’ with the five to seven year old age group commanding an annual tech-spend of £438.
According to the research, when a child reaches seven they hit adults’ pockets the hardest, costing £761 a year which is 42% higher than the average spend (£537). This is the age when most children take the step up from infant to junior school, becoming increasingly self-aware and able to articulate exactly what they want.