26th August 2015
Children’s satchels now contain an average of £270 worth of gadgets – a collective total of £3.2bn, a new study reveals.
This is an increase of 108% on the previous school year, according to the research by uSwitch.com, the comparison website.
Half of all parents will buy their school-age children new technology, spending an average of £134 per household ahead of the start of the autumn term. More than a fifth (22%) of children will arrive at school carrying backpacks containing technology totalling more than £400.
The increase in spend could be down to children’s rising reliance on gadgets for homework assignments. A third (33%) of children rely on tablets to get their homework done – up from 24% last school year – while more than one in eight (14%) use their smartphones, up from 11% a year ago.
Half of parents believe gadgets give their children an educational advantage, but almost the same proportion (49%) fear their kids’ social skills will be damaged as a consequence of their technology habits.
Similarly, 48% worry a reliance on gadgets will make their kid’s handwriting worse, and 57% are concerned they’ll become too reliant on spellcheck.
Almost half (46%) are concerned their children’s mental maths skills will be affected, while 42% worry about the impact on their children’s verbal communication skills.
Half are concerned that technology will damage their children’s attention spans.
Almost one in 10 (9%) parents say their children have been bullied over technology– either due to the brand they use, not having the latest technology, or because another child wanted to take their gadget. 13% say their kids have lost or had a gadget stolen at school.
More than a quarter (27%) of schools have a total ban on gadgets and confiscate them if found, 24% only ban them from lessons, 11% allow gadgets and widely use them in lessons for educational purposes.
Almost four in 10 (38%) parents agree that technology makes their children’s everyday lives safer and the same proportion (38%) use their child’s gadgets to keep track of them when they are out and about, away from the home[. This increases with the child’s age; three in 10 (30%) parents with children aged seven use gadgets to keep track of them, compared to half (50%) with kids aged 15.
Many parents are buying tablets and smartphones, even for toddlers. One in five (20%) parents bought their child’s first gadget when they were under the age of four and more than a third (36%) of parents don’t place any restrictions on the time their children spend using gadgets.
The average UK child now spends more than three hours a day using gadgets, not including time spent watching television.
Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, says: “As gadgets become more integral to our daily lives, it’s not surprising that parents want their children to have the latest technology, especially if it offers their child an educational advantage.
“Embracing tablets and laptops in both the classroom and with homework can speed up research, as well as lighten the load with children carting around fewer books. But many parents are still concerned about how much kids are using gadgets, and whether it will impact their social skills in the long term.
“Parents could alleviate some fears about how their child is using gadgets by setting clear boundaries for how and when they use them. By engaging with their child and making the time to use gadgets together, parents can nurture their development and help their child learn to use technology more responsibly.”