Equipping pre-teens with web mobes spreads beyond West

Four in five eight-year-olds tote mobiles in Cairo


Egyptian parents are most eager to connect their children, with four out of five furnishing their eight-year-old children with mobiles, but the rest of the world isn't far behind.

The figures come from the GSMA, representing the GSM industry, which polled 3,500 families across Japan, India, Paraguay and Egypt to see how children were using mobile technology and what their parents thought about it.

Perhaps most surprising is the news that all these kids aren't using parental cast-off handsets. Across the countries surveyed, four out of five children under 18 who have phones are toting a brand new handset. Although the majority of these gadgets aren't smartphones, these kids are using their mobiles to access the internet and social networking sites, as well as keeping in touch with the folks.

The trend is particularly dominant in Japan, where half the children polled (all of whom were under 18) access the internet on their phone. But Egypt again trumps all comers with 54 per cent of children accessing the internet on the move, probably because they've had a handset since they were eight.

Not that all Egyptian children are squinting at the web on a mobile-phone screen, 18 per cent of them have tablet computers these days: more than three times the next (India) and six times the tablet use in Paraguay. Japan trails in the overly-rich-doting-parent category with only two per cent equipping their offspring with fondleslabs.

Nor are the rest of them dependent on phones: 30 per cent of Egyptian children reckon their games console is their primary point of access to the internet.

The surveys were carried out in urban areas, but the vast majority were done face-to-face by stopping people in the street, so a good deal more reliable than the self-selecting web surveys we see so often. There's a whole bunch of statistics complete with colour charts covering mobile ownership, and use, across the four countries in the full report [PDF, well written but statistics heavy], but what's clear is that the phenomenon of tech-equipped pre-teens is far from limited to Western economies.

It also demonstrates the increasing importance of server-side parental control: as children access the internet from a plethora of devices, desktop filtering isn't going to cut it any more as evidenced by the popularity of TalkTalk's new service that has signed up 200,000 people already. ®

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