What age should children own their own mobile device?


Is there an appropriate age to give your child a connected device? Find out more in Norton's My first device report.

Parenting in the digital age can be a difficult for many. The old challenges of getting children to eat their greens, go to bed on time and complete their homework are all still there, but there is an added layer of technology that parents must navigate.

Unlike their children, today, most parents didn’t grow up with connected devices like smartphones and tablets, which can leave them struggling to create and enforce screen time rules. Parents face the unknown, questioning the right age at which their child should be exposed to screen time or have their “own” device, whilst also examining their own habits and potential effects on their children.

Did you know children desire mobile screen time more than they do sugar or sweets?

British children now spend more time in front of a mobile screen than they do playing outdoors, and almost one-quarter (23%) of parents in Britain say their children spend more time than they do online according to Norton’s “My First Device” Report.

The report found that over three in four British respondents (77%) said parents are setting a bad example by spending too much time online. Four in ten parents (42%) admitted they have been told off by their own children for device use, highlighting how today’s families meet challenges in enforcing healthy screen time routines in an increasingly connected world.


Are children benefiting from increased usage of mobile and connected devices?

While technology is certainly helping manage our daily lives, when it comes to kids’ device usage over half of parents believe mobile technology and mobile devices can help foster children’s problem solving and learning skills (60%), creativity (53%) and happiness (53%), with over three-quarters (78%) saying that children being in charge of their own devices teaches them responsibility.

While this might be a positive belief around mobile devices, parents also have real concerns about the potential negative impact device usage may have. Nearly half of British parents (43%) say mobile screen time affects their child’s quality of sleep. Parents also worry about the detrimental impact devices have on energy levels (40%), social skills (38%) and mental health (32%).

These types of concerns are only growing as children own their own devices at increasingly younger ages. Norton by NortonLifeLock’s research found that parents are giving in to the time old favourite - pester power, as on average British children are getting their first connected device at nine years of age- a full year younger than parents feel their children should be allowed one. 

Practical tips for parents to manage better mobile usage in children

Norton’s “My First Device” Report explores the challenges the first generation of “digital-first” parents face. Unlike them, their children have never known a world without smartphones and tablets. Finding the right balance so as children can grow and learn using mobile devices is difficult but there are some steps parents can take to help create clear boundaries of use:

  1. Establish house rules and guidelines: Set limits to screen time, the type of content your child accesses online or the appropriate tone of language to use online. These rules should vary depending on your children’s age, maturity and understanding of the risks they could face online. 

  2. Encourage online activity in communal spaces: Getting the right balance of independence for kids is important so as they don’t need to hide when their online. It will help put your mind at ease about what they are doing, and they’ll know they can come to you if they concerned, frightened or confused about something they have seen online.

  3. Encourage and maintain an open and ongoing conversation with your children on Internet use and experiences, including cyberbullying. Talk to your kids about digital dangers and maintain an ongoing dialogue.

  4. Encourage kids to think before they click: whether they're looking at online video sites, receiving an unknown link in an email or even browsing the web, remind your child not to click on links, which may take them to dangerous or inappropriate sites. Clicking unknown links is a common way people get viruses or reveal private and valuable information about themselves.

  5. Look out for harmful content: from websites to apps, games and online communities, your kids have access to a lot of content that can affect them both positively and negatively. Using smart online family security and parental web safety tools, as well as the built-in security settings in your browsers, can help the whole family stay safe. 

  6. Discuss the risks of posting and sharing private information, videos, and photographs –
    especially on social media! 

  7. Be a good role model. Children are more likely to imitate their parents' behaviour, so lead by example.

  8. Use a robust and trusted security software solution, such as Norton Security, to help keep your children and devices protected against malicious websites, viruses, phishing attempts and other online threats designed to steal personal and financial information.

Find out more about kids connected device usage and how you can help your family enjoy the digital world more safely in Norton’s My First device report:

About the My First Mobile Device Report

The Norton My First Device Research Report is an online survey of 6,986 parents aged 18+ years old, with children aged 5-16 across 10 markets, commissioned by Norton by NortonLifeLock and produced by research firm Edelman Intelligence. The European sample reflects input from 5,974 European parents ages 18+ across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the United Kingdom. The Middle East sample reflects input from 1,012 parents ages 18+ across the United Arab Emirates and the KSA. This 10-minute survey was in fieldwork between the 10th and the 20th of August 2018. The margin of error for the total sample is +/-.5%. 

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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