We surveyed 1,000 parents across the UK about issues relating to children and mobile phones, including the use of smartphones in schools, the increasing trend of cyberbullying among young people, and a look at what age children should be given smartphones and how this is monitored.
Smartphones in Schools
Following calls for a total ban on mobile phones in schools from MP Matthew Hancock, it’s currently a topic of much debate. From our sample, almost a quarter (24.38%) of parents felt that phones should not be allowed in schools under any circumstances, whilst 33.87% of respondents believed phones should be only used in emergencies. Just 1.5% felt their access should be unrestricted. It seems there’s a slight disconnect between what parents feel is the correct application of mobile phones in schools and how schools choose to operate.
Age & Smartphone Ownership
Another key subject we wanted to gain a consensus on was at what age parents are actually giving their children smartphones. Common sense would dictate that, as smartphones have become more accessible, the average age for initial use would decrease. This argument seems to be supported by research from the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), which states that smartphone internet usage increased by 6% among 5 – 7-year-olds between 2016 and 2017.
This data contradicts professional warnings about the age of smartphone ownership among children. Dr. Jon Goldin, Vice Chairman of the Royal College of Psychologists, has suggested that smartphones shouldn’t be given to children under the age of 11, and that peer pressure among parents and children has led to the increase we’ve seen.
Through our research we found that 53.25% of parents would give a child their first mobile phone between the age of 10 – 13, which is in-keeping with Dr. Goldin’s recommendations. The most likely reason for this is that, at age 11, children generally start secondary school, which coincides with greater independence – for example, children may be commuting to and from school by themselves. In contrast, 6.39% of parents give a child their first mobile device at the age of 6 or under.
When we asked parents whether they knew if their child had been a victim of cyberbullying, we found that 29.37% said it had happened or they suspected that it had. This contradicts data from 2017 collected by the NSPCC that suggests closer to 20% of young people have been affected by cyberbullying. Of course, there is a margin for error regarding parents’ suspicion, however, these numbers seem to suggest that cyberbullying is on the rise.
Despite its prevalence in the public discourse, cyberbullying is not parents’ biggest concern when it comes to letting their child have a smartphone. Our data shows that ‘talking to strangers’ is the greatest concern to a majority of parents, with 40.96% of our sample highlighting that as such, while cyberbullying was the primary concern of 25.77% of them. Twice as many parents were worried about theft (18.8%) than school disruption (9.7%).