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Nearly half of children aged five to 10 now own a mobile phone, a new report has revealed.
The findings from Childwise, a research agency specialising in children, reveal that 47% of kids in that age group now have their own mobile phones, a figure that has jumped from 38% last year.
And it seems children are getting their mobiles at an earlier age, with most (53%) now having their own phone by the age of seven.
The annual survey, which quizzed 2,167 five to 16-year-old British children about their use of media, found that though children seem to be getting phones at a younger age going to secondary school is still a key time for children to get a phone with 90% having their own device by age 11 and phone ownership being described as “almost universal” by the time children hit the secondary school milestone.
In figures revealing just how reliant on technology children are becoming 39% said they could not live without their phone, while 57% of all the children surveyed said they always slept with their phone by their bed.
The same proportion (57%) admitted they did not know what they would do if they lost their device, while 44% admitted to feeling uncomfortable if they were somewhere without phone signal, and 42% claimed to be “constantly worried” about running out of charge.
Overall, children now spend around three hours and 20 minutes each day messaging, playing games and being online, the report by Childwise found, but interestingly this was down slightly on last year.
The report also revealed that mobiles are the device youngsters are most likely to use to access the internet.
Researchers said the findings show the extent to which phones can “dominate children's lives”.
Simon Leggett, research director at Childwise, said it can be difficult for mothers and fathers to parent children’s use of technology as “the mobile phone is such a private and personal technology”.
“The moment a child owns a mobile phone, it can be a challenge to monitor what your child is accessing online because it's such a private technology that most keep literally close to their chest,” he explains.
The report comes as it was revealed last week that social media firms will have to adhere to a new code, which aims to help protect children’s privacy online.
The UK's data regulator has published a set of standards which it hopes will force tech companies to take protecting children online seriously.
Drawn up by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the Age Appropriate Design Code, covers everything from apps to connected toys, social media platforms and online games, and even educational websites and streaming services.
Not only will companies be expected to prioritise data protection of young people, firms such as Facebook, Google and other tech giants will be prevented from serving children any content that is “detrimental to their physical or mental health or wellbeing.”
News of the new code comes as last week it was revealed that social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram should be forced to hand over data about who their users are and why they use the sites in an attempt to reduce suicide among children and young people.
The report, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists is backed by the grieving father of Molly Russell, who died aged 14-year-old in 2017, and was found to have viewed harmful content online before her death from suicide.
Last year Instagram revealed it was banning graphic images of self-harm after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said social media companies “need to do more” to curb their impact on teenagers’ mental health.
It was also revealed last year that teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at higher risk of mental health problems.
Findings from 6,595 youngsters aged 12 to 15 in the US found those who used social media more heavily were more likely to report issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness, as well as aggression and anti-social behaviour, than teenagers who did not use social media.
Additional reporting PA