Keeping children appy: half of children have mobile phone before eleven

14 November 2016

  • Average Brit gets their first mobile phone worth £120 aged 11
  • Childrens’ handsets need replacing twice due to being lost, stolen or damaged
  • One in eight children spend more than four hours a day glued to their mobiles
  • Over a quarter of parents don’t supervise their children while they use their phone

British children are being given their first mobile phone at 11 years old, with research showing that one in 20 (4%) own their first device before their sixth birthday. However, a third of parents (38%) end up regretting giving their child a phone at such a young age, with damaged handsets and transfixed teens often the result of owning a phone.

The Nationwide FlexPlus survey1, which polled 2,000 British parents, looked at the age of mobile phone ownership. It revealed that parents spend an average of £120 on their child’s handset – only slightly less than the £163 parents spend securing a new mobile phone deal or device for themselves. And in a nod to the increasing role of technology, more than two thirds (70%) allow their child to have internet access on their device.

When it comes to children taking care of their mobile devices, parents may be minded to insure their youngsters’ handsets, particularly as the survey shows children need their mobile phone replacing at least twice on average, due to it being lost, stolen or damaged.


A third (34%) surveyed admit their children spend too much time on their phone. While one in eight (12%) spend more than four hours a day on their devices, with two hours a day being the average amongst British children.

And while one in six parents (17%) limit their child’s phone usage to emergencies, more than a quarter of parents polled (28%) allow their children to use their phone all day without any supervision, despite over half (51%) of children using their phones for the internet and nearly half (46%) using it for social media.

According to the data, the most popular device time for children is straight after school (12%), straight after dinner (10%) and throughout the day at school (9%). But parents draw the line at phone usage during the family meal (2%).

When it comes to typical phone activity, children use their devices for a range of reasons. These include:

  • 61% playing games
  • 54% watching videos
  • 51% surfing the internet
  • 49% listening to music
  • 46% on social media


For the majority of parents, the top reason for getting their child a mobile phone is to make sure they are contactable at all times. More than half (55%) want the flexibility to always stay in touch, nearly half (47%) bought them for emergencies and more than a third (36%) cited safety fears as a reason for getting a handset for their children.

And despite trying to allay these fears by equipping their children with phones, parents then worry about their use instead. The survey showed that one in five (21%) parents are worried about the impact their child’s phone use is having on quality time with the family, while one in five (19%) fret about the money they are spending on phone calls, apps, music and games. Around one in six (16%) are concerned that their child is missing out on face-to-face interactions with others.

As a result, two thirds of parents (66%) control how long their child spends on their phone by limiting phone credit (42%), confiscating devices in the evening to promote family time (21%) or introducing strict rules around phone use in general (16%).

Dan King, Nationwide’s Head of FlexPlus Current Account, said: “Mobile phones have become central to our lives, so it’s not surprising that more and more young people are being given a phone. With children as young as primary school age being entrusted with a device, parents shouldn’t be surprised if it needs replacing or repairing on more than one occasion. With the latest model of phone costing in excess of £500, its worth considering good quality family mobile phone insurance, such as that offered through Nationwide’s FlexPlus current account, to avoid ending up out of pocket.”

Nationwide’s FlexPlus current account2, which is ranked as the UK’s best packaged account*, offers a range of benefits including worldwide family travel insurance, commission-free cash withdrawals abroad, worldwide family phone insurance and UK and European breakdown cover, all for just £10 a month

Notes to Editors

1 2,000 parents were surveyed by Mortar London in October 2016

* As awarded by Moneynet 2014, 2015 and 2016.

2FlexPlus Key Information

Account Eligibility

  • FlexPlus is open to new and existing customers aged 18 years and over
  • Single and joint account options available

Account Fee

  • FlexPlus has a £10 per month fee

Credit Interest

  • 3% AER (2.96% gross p.a) on credit balances up to £2,500
  • Credit interest is not payable on balances over £2,500


  • Worldwide Family Travel Insurance
  • Commission-Free Cash Withdrawals Abroad
  • Worldwide Family Mobile Phone Insurance
  • UK and European Breakdown and Recovery Assistance
  • Extended Warranty Cover
  • ID Theft Assistance
  • Worldwide Emergency Card Assistance

Exclusions and limitations apply to all FlexPlus insurances

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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