Children’s use of mobile phones – An international comparison 2012

Children in a mobile world

Children around the globe are increasingly passionate users of mobile technology. Demonstrating a receptivity and enthusiasm that far exceeds those of their parents and teachers; they are embracing the opportunities provided by mobile phones in ways that could not have been predicted a decade ago.

Children’s use of mobile phones – An international comparison 2012 provides a detailed picture of children’s mobile phone usage across five different countries – Japan, Chile, Egypt, India and Indonesia. Now in its fourth year, the 2012 study surveyed 4,500 children and their parents or guardians. It builds on work previously conducted in India, Japan and Egypt, and features Indonesia and Chile for the first time.

The 2012 research has been funded by mobile operators in each country with a contribution from the GSMA and the continued support of the Mobile Society Research Institute. The report data was obtained through a series of surveys conducted in each country during July and August 2012.

Research focus

To enable year-on-year comparisons, standard questions were posed to the children and their parents including:

  • Age of first mobile ownership
  • Reasons for getting a mobile
  • Feelings about their mobile phone
  • Parents’ concerns over their child’s use of mobile phones

Additionally, topics for the 2012 survey included:

Social networking and privacy: How many children use social networking services (SNS) on mobile phones; how many contacts do they have; are children and parents aware of what information they are making public via their mobile phones?

Internet access via mobile and content: Are children accessing the internet via mobile; how many are doing it; how long do they spend using it, and what content are they looking for?

Mobile app use: Are apps being accessed by children and how does that compare with their parents’ use; what types of apps are being used, and which are the most popular?

The impact on confidence and relationships: Do mobile phones affect children’s confidence; do they feel more secure with a mobile phone; how does a mobile phone impact on their external relationships, and what tools do they think are best for strengthening relationships?

Key Findings in Chile

Mobile phone ownership rate

  • 79% of children own a mobile phone with the age of first ownership peaking at age 10.
  • 42% of child mobile phone users have a smartphone.

Use of mobile phones

  • 61% of children who use a mobile phone use it for both calling and messaging, the lowest of the five countries surveyed.

Mobile internet

  • 54% of all children who use a mobile use it to access the internet.

Mobile apps use

  • 78% of children with access to handsets use apps; this is higher than their parents usage at 71%.
  • Entertainment app use is most popular among children who use or download apps at 94%, followed by communication apps at 37%.

Social networking services and privacy

  • 49% of children use social networking services via their mobile phones.
  • 26% of children’s profiles are set as open to the public while 48% are set as private.

Parental concerns and mobile safety

  • Parents’ concern about children’s privacy is high, with 91% of parents being “very concerned” or “concerned”.
  • 64% of parents have introduced rules on their children’s mobile phone use.


Click in the links to download the report “Children’s use of mobile phones 2012: An international comparison“: