Children's phone usage researched

Twins Amelie and Miette Richardson, 10, do not own a mobile phone, but their parents are considering buying one for the girls for safety reasons. Picture: GEOFF ROBSON

Twins Amelie and Miette Richardson, 10, do not own a mobile phone, but their parents are considering buying one for the girls for safety reasons. Picture: GEOFF ROBSON

A MAJORITY of children are getting their first mobile phones at about the age of 10, according to a study undertaken by researchers from Northern Tasmania.

University of Tasmania human development lecturer Dr J-F, with researchers Dr Darren Pullen and Dr Karen Swabey, conducted a survey with 218 grade 9 students from Queensland that looked at mobile phone usage.

The study found more than half of the students owned their first phones in primary school, with some getting phones as early as grade 1.

The study discovered that females are much more likely to communicate on their phones than males, and the majority of users made about five calls a day, but preferred to communicate via text message sending more than 10 messages daily.

"It is really, really scary to think that children are being exposed to technology so early and are learning different ways of communicating with each other.

"If a kid gets a phone in grade 2, by the time they come to grade 9 they know a lot more about technology than a lot of other people."

However, Dr J-F said phone communications, whether it be through calls, texts or use of the camera, positively helped to form individual identity.

"[Phones] help children to communicate and connect and these are two psychological domains that are imperative for any development in adolescents, where they share their emotions and openly share their ideas," Dr J-F said.

The study found 62 per cent of students said the main reason for phone ownership was socialisation, but other reasons included parental access, and safety and medical reasons.

Michael Richardson, father to 10-year-old twins Amelie and Miette, said the family was just at the point where they were considering getting a mobile phone for the girls.

He said this was for safety communication reasons when the girls walked home from school or were at home by themselves without a landline.

Dr J-F said the survey results were the first part of a larger study that would be focused primarily on mobile phone use and delinquency.

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