New research shows children’s mobile phone habits are changing

New research released today by the GSMA and the NTT DOCOMO Mobile Society Research Institute shows that 69 per cent of children aged eight to 18 use mobile phones, with 40 per cent in the surveyed countries stating that they regularly use mobile to access the internet. The new research is third in a series of international studies on the use of mobile phones by children and which investigated more than 3,500 children and their parents in Egypt, Japan, Paraguay and India.

“This series of research gives us a real understanding over time of the changing dynamics of children’s use of mobile on a regional basis and by taking these learnings and applying them, the industry is leading the debate on how to provide a positive experience and protect young people online,” said Tom Philips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “We are developing considered regulatory and self-regulatory approaches to enable safe environments for children using mobile services as well as engaging with governments, child experts, NGOs and other stakeholders in constructive policy discussions, and we encourage all of members of the mobile ecosystem to be proactive in this area.”

“For the first time, the research series explores children’s use of smartphones and their attitudes and behaviours towards social networking and privacy on their mobile phones. We know children are using social networking on mobile phones and the research shows just how prevalent this is, with 73 per cent of children who use the mobile internet using social networking services, considerably more than the 43 per cent of parents currently using it,” said Toshiya Shinozaki, director of NTT DOCOMO’s Mobile Society Research.

The research also shows that while mobile social networking use increases with age, 72 per cent of 12-year-old children who access the mobile Internet are using social networking services, despite the fact that the minimum age for many social networking sites, including Facebook, is 13. The research indicates that children are aware and responsible in their social networking activities, with 80 per cent of children protecting their social networking profile by limiting the viewing of their profile to friends or friends of friends.

Mobile messaging remains a strong communications tool for children and while younger children use their mobile phone primarily to make calls, as they get older, they are more likely to message, with around 27 per cent of 10-year-old children and 55 per cent of 15-year-olds sending six or more messages a day. Children evidently value mobile, with 88 per cent saying that existing close friendships have been reinforced through mobile messaging and 76 per cent say less close friendships have improved.

The research shows that smartphone and tablet use is relatively low, with just 12 per cent of children using smartphones and less than six per cent of children in three of the four countries surveyed using tablets. Only Egypt is showing greater take-up of tablets at 18 per cent. Children who own smartphones are much more likely to use it as their primary device to access the Internet, with 56 per cent in Japan, 42 per cent in India and 41 per cent in Paraguay using their smartphones for Internet access. An exception is Egypt, where only three per cent of child smartphone owners use it as their main device to access the Internet; instead, 30 per cent of Egyptian children use a games console as their main device to access the Internet.