Majority of children in the UK have their own mobile phone by age 10

Over half of under-10s have their own mobile phone, and as the summer holidays arrive it seems the UK’s parents have a tougher job than ever tearing kids away from electronic gadgets…

With the school holidays just around the corner, children will be using mobile phones more than ever before in the coming weeks, according to our latest research.

Our survey of 2,000 parents and kids found the little tykes think they'll spend twice as long on their mobile phone during the holidays - we estimate an additional 60 hours of usage - with 46% of kids expecting to use their phone for an extra two hours a day.

We also discovered that 90% of under-14s have a handset of their own, and that 52% of kids under 10 have one, with 10 being the average age kids get their first mobile.

They said they mainly use their mobile phones for calls, sending texts, playing games and using social apps such as Snapchat, BBM, Twitter and Facebook.

We spoke to parenting bloggers Jo (Slummy Single Mummy) and Nikki (Stressy Mummy) about their own children's mobile phone usage, and how they deal with any problems that arise from them having their own handsets.

Jo said: "My daughter had her first mobile when she started secondary school. I was worried she'd become a bit obsessed with it, but she'll actually quite happily leave it switched off for days. We have an iPad, though - so she really only uses the phone for texts and calls."

Nikki told us: "My 10-year-old's addicted to the games he plays and he's discovered it's quite easy to do in-app purchases, which can soon add up.

"I've now gone into his phone and disabled them, and I've told him if he buys any apps without checking with me first he won't be allowed to top up his credit when it runs out."

Our expert Dominic Baliszewski said: "It's encouraging to see that children and teenagers nowadays are very technically and digitally aware.

"Costs, however, can easily add up quickly on a mobile phone, particularly with data usage, which we found to be the biggest single contributor to 'bill shock'."

Our survey revealed that one in 10 children's' mobile phone costs at least £30 a month, while one in seven kids had overspent by more than £20 on at least one occasion.

Tips for parents buying mobile phones for kids:

Which handset?

A high proportion of children are victims of mobile phone theft, so an expensive handset may make your children a target for thieves as well as being expensive to replace. You could give them an old phone you have lying around instead.

Data danger

If you buy your child a smartphone so they can go online as well as call and text, be very careful to ensure they're aware of the potential security, personal safety and 'bill shock' dangers of using mobile internet. All mobile networks offer parental control tools - all you need to do is ask for them to be switched on. To stop your child from going over their data allowance, you can limit how much data they can use in the settings menu of most smartphones.


Giving your child a pay-as-you-go phone has many advantages, the main one being is that it allows you to keep a lid on what they're spending. Pay-as-you-go credit can last a long time if used sensibly, and if the phone is stolen thieves can't run up big bills. The downside of pay-as-you-go is that calls and texts tend to cost more than they do on a pay-monthly contract, but you can use pay-as-you-go as an opportunity for to teach your child how to budget by making their credit last until the next top up.

Capped contracts

Only a few networks offer capped contracts, but they combine the best of both worlds - they often include a phone, but also offer the allow you to cap what your child's spending like you can if with on pay-as-you-go.

App purchases

If your child has a smartphone, they'll be able to access app stores like Apple's App Store and Google Play. Once you've bought an app your payment details may be saved automatically by the app store, so make sure you either delete them or that your child understands that they shouldn't buy any apps, or make in-app purchases, without getting your permission first.

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