Rise of the cyber tot -- 4 million British under threes use smartphones or tablets

Kids using tablets

Almost 3.5 million British children under the age of eight have tablets and nearly 4 million learned to use a smartphone or tablet before they were three.

New research from price comparison and switching service uSwitch reveals a growing nation of cyber tots with 29 percent learning to use a touch screen device before the age of three and 11 percent before they were two.

The study, carried out among more than 1,700 adults in December 2013, shows that parents spent £5.6 billion on gadgets for their kids last year, laying out an average of £462 each. Some 16 percent of parents believe their under 16s are "addicted" to gadgets, with 26 percent saying their kids would be lost without them. More worrying is that 12 percent of kids have run up bills due to in-app purchases.

The trend seems set to continue with 36 percent of parents expecting to spend more on gadgets for their kids in 2014, only a quarter felt they had spent too much last year. The most popular gadget is a games console with 91 percent of parents saying that their kids owned at least one. Parents do seem to be aware of the potential dangers though with 71 percent saying that they limit the hours their children spend using technology.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch says, "Once the gadget of choice for high-flyers and tech fans, the price of an entry-level tablet is now under £100, making them an attractive -- and affordable -- piece of kit for the whole family. They can also make lessons, homework and bedtime stories both fun and interactive, so it's little wonder that more British parents are caving in to demands from their tech-savvy children. Most tablet-owning parents will probably find their tots commandeer their touchscreen devices anyway".

Whilst recognizing the benefits of tablet use Doku also warns of the dangers, "But parents really do need to keep tabs on what their children get up to online, and lay out some ground rules, or risk having to cover the cost of bills racked up by in-app purchases -- particularly in seemingly 'free-to-play' games. These can usually be disabled or placed behind a PIN within your device's 'settings' menu, ensuring that little ones can enjoy a tablet without causing a big financial headache".

Photo Credit: vesna cvorovic/Shutterstock

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