Children own first phone at seven

  • On average, UK children own a phone by age seven and an iPad by age eight
  • Most children can operate the television at four years old — before they can tie their own shoelaces, ride a bike or swim unaided 
  • Average lifetime of a tablet or smartphone owned by a child is just 18 months 
  • Youngsters reaching technological milestones earlier, such as browsing the internet independently (age five) and being able to control the TV, seven years earlier than their parents

Children receive their first phone at the age of seven and their first iPad at the age of eight according to research from esure home insurance. This is despite the fact that 68% of parents think children shouldn’t have their own phone until they are at least nine, 29% believe it should be 12 and 7% think 15 is the youngest acceptable age.

The average child will also have their first games console by the age of eight, and a laptop by the time they hit double digits (10).

Children are being introduced to and becoming confident with technology at a young age — being able to browse the Internet without supervision by the time they are at school (five years old). In fact, the average child can operate a television before they know how to tie their own shoelaces, ride a bike without stabilizers or swim unaided1.

When looking at key technological milestones, including browsing the internet and being able to control the television, this generation are reaching these an average of seven years earlier than their parents.

Among all gadgets in the average home, more than a third (35%) now belong to those aged 18 and under. Parents estimate they’ve each spent close to £1,000on technology and gadgets for their children over the past five years — but some have spent as much as £10,0003 over this period.

Most parents (81%) believe the amount they are spending on gadgets for their children is increasing. Two fifths (40%) attribute this to the wider range of gadgets available — while others point to the rising costs of technology (27%) or pressure from their children (22%) or other parents (9%).

Although some (38%) parents may be making it more expensive than it needs to be, as they insist on always buying their children’s gadgets and technology new — as opposed to giving them something second-hand or passing on their old devices.

Yet it is not just the initial costs that are putting parents out of pocket, as they also have to shell out for replacements and repairs. Two fifths (41%) of parents say their children have broken a gadget, a sixth (15%) have lost one and a tenth (10%) have had one stolen. The average lifetime of a tablet or smartphone owned by a child is just 18 months.

Jon Wilshire, Chief Underwriting Officer at esure said: “Families are investing significant sums of money into kitting out their youngsters with the latest tech from a young age, but these items are at high risk of being broken or damaged. With this in mind, it’s important to have insurance in place that covers you these expensive items should an accident happen. Home insurance with personal possessions will cover you and your children’s gadgets both in and outside of the home.”


Table 1. The mean age at which children were given their first types of gadgets

Type of technology Mean age child was given their first one (years)
Children’s tablet (e.g. leapfrog) 5
DVD Player 7
Mobile phone (not smartphone) 7.6
TV in room 7.6
iPad (or similar) 8
Games console (e.g. Xbox)8 8
PC/Desktop 8
Sound system 8
iPod (or similar) 8.6
Laptop 9.5
Smartphone 10


Table 2. The proportion and number of six year olds who own/have owned each gadget

Type of technology % of 6 year olds who currently own / have owned this item Estimated number of 6 year olds who currently own / have owned this item (base: ONS population estimates4)
 Children’s tablet (e.g. leapfrog) 63  505,821
 DVD Player  39%  313,127
 iPad (or similar)  34%  272,983
 TV in room  27%  216,781
 Sound system  27%  216,781
 PC/Desktop  26%  208,752
 Mobile phone (not smartphone)  25%  200,723
 Games console (e.g. Xbox)  24%  192,694
 iPod (or similar)  19%  152,549
 Laptop  16%  128,463
 Smartphone  14%  112,405


For more information:

Emma Banks, [email protected], 01737 235107 / 07894 158605

Notes to editors:

Research was conducted by Opinium among 1,500 UK parents with children under the age of 18 in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Research was carried out from 9 May to 16 May 2016. 
esure is an efficient personal lines insurance business. Founded in 2000 by Chairman, Sir Peter Wood, Britain’s foremost insurance entrepreneur, the company is a leading provider of car and home insurance.

1 Source: Opinium. Average child can work a TV at 4.2, ride a bike without stabilizers at 4.3, swim unaided at 4.5 and tie their shoelaces at 4.6. 
2 Source: Opinium. Average parent has spent £819 on technology and gadgets for their children over the past five years.
3 Source: Opinium. 4% of parents surveyed have spent £10,000 or more on technology and gadgets for their children over the past five years
4 Source: ONS Population Estimates published in June 2014. The estimate number of four year olds in the UK (who would now be six, as it’s two years on) was 802,891.