Third of under-tens 'own mobiles'

image captionChildren, like adults, crave the latest gadgets

Nearly a third of children aged ten or under now have their own mobile phone, according to survey of parents.

One in ten said their child was using an internet capable smartphone, such as the iPhone or Android devices.

The research by cloud security firm Westcoastcloud questioned 2,000 families about their technology ownership.

It comes as the government considers mandatory content filters for net connections used by children.

In those households surveyed, 16% of children owned their own laptop, while 18% had a flat-screen TV in their bedroom. A quarter of those aged ten or under had an email address while 8% had a social networking account.

Most parents agreed that 10 was a suitable age for children to have their own phone with the majority (69%) saying they bought one to keep in touch with their offspring when they are out.

A quarter of children owned a Nintendo Wii, and around 16% had a digital music player.

Parents appeared to have mixed attitudes to how much they monitored what their children did online. More (21%) said they didn't follow their child on a social network than those that did (13%).

By contrast, only 12% said they left children to 'play' unmonitored when using a laptop or computer.

There was also an even spilt when it came to using parental controls with just under half (49%) saying they blocked access to certain sites while the remainder admitted they had no controls.

For Will Gardner of children's charity Childnet, the findings reiterate the need for parents to understand how their children are using technology.

"It is important to help ensure parents are aware of the full functionality of the technology that young children are accessing and that they are able to use the tools and give the support that young people need to stay safe and get the most out of these devices," he said.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has set up a website - thinkuknow - in order to offer advice and guidance on how youngsters use technology.

"We know that technology, especially mobile phones, are now part of parcel of childrens' everyday lives. They allow the internet to be at the fingertips of young people, which means it is now increasingly difficult for parents to manage their child's use of it," said a CEOP spokesperson.

The government is currently considering the recommendations of the Bailey Review which calls for internet service providers to automatically offer parents software that will filter out harmful content.

The measures could be included in the revised Communications Act, due by 2015.

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