One in Five Kids Under 12 Has a Cell Phone, Poll Says

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Big Kids

If you bought your grade-schooler a cell phone recently, you're not alone. A new survey found the number of kids ages 6 to 11 carrying cell phones has shot up 68 percent in the last five years.

Twenty percent of kids ages 6 to 11 now have cell phones, up from 11.9 percent in 2005, according to the new American Kids Study from research company MRI.

It was the older kids -- ages 10 to 11 -- that had the biggest bump in cell phone ownership, up 80.5 percent between 2005 and 2009. But even among the 6- and 7-year-olds, the numbers rose by 32.7 percent.

And even if parents justify the purchase by saying it's for emergencies only, you know kids define "emergency" differently than you do. According to the poll, the cell phones are mainly used to call parents (88.1 percent of kids say so), call friends (68.1 percent) and for emergency purposes (55.7 percent). But kids are also making full use of the phone features by texting (54.1 percent), playing games (49 percent), taking pictures (47.8 percent) and more.

Many companies are stirring the market by selling cell phones with special features designed for kids, like the Disney Mobile LG Phone and Firefly Communications' FlyPhone, noted Anne Marie Kelly, senior vice president of marketing and strategic planning at MRI. The company polled 5,000 households, including both kids and their parents.

In a statement, Kelly noticed boys have begun catching up to girls in cell phone ownership. In 2007, 18.6 percent of girls ages 6 to 11 had cell phones, and only 12.4 percent of boys; but by 2009, boys' cell phone ownership had gone up to 18.3 percent, closing the gap to the girls' 21.8 percent.

Kelly's statement also notes that boys use cell phones differently than girls: "Girls are more apt to make calls and send text messages while boys are more likely to instant message, access the Internet and download games, music and video," she says.

Related: Teachers Using Cell Phones As Educational Tool, More Families Stay In Touch Via Cell Phones, Texts

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.