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A new survey has revealed that the average age of a first time cell phone owner is six years old, with 53% of American children owning a cell phone by the time their seventh birthday arrives.

A leading coupon brand conducted a survey to find out more about the digital age and its effect on American consumerism. The survey intended to find out just how old people are when technology begins to integrate into their daily lives and habits. 2,290 US parents took part in the study, all of whom had at least one child aged between 11 and 16.

The survey, conducted by vouchercloud, revealed that the average American child gets their first cell phone when they are just six years old. Parents taking part in the poll were first asked to identify all devices which their children owned and were provided with a list of everyday technology items. The results were as follows:

  • Cell Phone - 96%
  • Own TV / Sound system - 83%
  • Tablet - 75%
  • Handheld games console e.g. Nintendo DS - 71%
  • eBook Reader - 65%

51% of parents said their child had a games console, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. Without exception, the respondents who indicated that their child did not have a cell phone had children in the youngest age bracket (11 -12 years old), suggesting that the children over the age of 12 involved in the survey all had their own cell phones.

As a website that aims to save users money, vouchercloud wanted to determine how much money was being spent on gadgets by parents for their children. When asked to estimate how much their child's gadget collection was worth and asked to take into account all technology devices that were exclusively theirs, the average answer stated was $462.00 per child.

The respondents whose children owned cell phones were asked, “At what age did your child have their first cell phone?” The vouchercloud team collaborated all of the answers given and calculated the average age for a child to have their first cell phone, which was revealed to be six years old.

When asked, “What made you decide to get your child their first cell phone?” the majority of respondents whose children had one (31%) confirmed that they made the purchase for ‘security reasons, so my child could always contact me’, while a quarter (25%) said ‘my child wanted one to keep in touch with friends and family’. A further 20% confirmed that they felt their child had to have one in order to ‘keep up with their friends at school’.

In order to explore the social pressures on parents, the relevant respondents were then asked “Compared to your child's friendship circle, how quickly did s/he have his/her own phone?” The majority of the parents polled, 41%, confirmed that they were ‘not the first, but not the last’ to get a handset, while 23% confirmed that they felt their child was ‘among the last’ to have a cell phone they could call their own.

Asked about the risks and dangers of digital independence, 74% of the relevant parents confessed that they felt ‘concerned’ when they first purchased a cell phone for their child, with 46% of these installing parental filters and monitors prior to giving their child the device in order to keep a watchful eye on their usage.

Matthew Wood of vouchercloud commented:

“Children have access to technology at younger and younger ages. The fact that most six year old kids have cell phones in their pockets while out on their bikes or playing with their friends shows just how much technology is part of our lives at a young age. It's not necessarily the bad thing it's often made out to be; children learn about taking responsibility for things, looking after their possessions and they are much easier to contact if needed, but it's crucial that they use this technology in a way that doesn't affect their normal social skills and growth. As much as a cell phone may feel like another limb, human beings can still function without one! So having a turn-off time for family bonding is a good idea.”

He continued:

“It is also worth bearing in mind that kids will always be kids. They will run around, fall over, drop things and get wet and muddy from time to time. Technology is often fairly fragile, so things can get out of hand when parents spend a small - or large - fortune on these gadgets just for them to break a week later. Always shop around for good insurance policies to make sure all is not lost when it comes to the crunch!”