BERLIN: The age at which German children go online is getting younger and younger, with over one third of six- to seven-year-olds using the internet, including a significant minority who are doing so via smartphone, new research has shown.

BITKOM, the high tech association, surveyed 962 children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 years for its report Children and Youth 3.0 and found that 94% of the 10-11 age group were online. The process had started earlier for many, however, as 76% of 8-9 year olds were online and 39% of 6-7 year olds.

The youngest age group were spending just 11 minutes a day using the internet, a figure that doubled to 22 minute by the time they were ten. Thereafter, the time rose sharply as they entered the teen years: 59 minutes for 12-13 year olds, 93 minutes for 14-15 year olds and almost two hours (115 minutes) for 16-18 year olds.

For the oldest group the smartphone was the main route online, being used by 89%. This compared to an average figure for adult internet users, aged over 19, of just 47%.

Nor were smartphones confined to older children. Already 20% of 6-7 year olds used a smartphone, rising to 25% for 8-9 year olds, before leaping to 57% for 10-11 year olds and 85% for 12-13 year olds.

"For most children and adolescents, smartphones, computers and the internet are now part of everyday life," observed BITKOM President Prof. Dieter Kempf, adding that "the smartphone has become within a few years the central communication device for young people".

After the smartphone, the main device used to access the internet was the notebook (69%), followed by the desktop (52%), with tablets lagging on 26%.

The report said that younger children typically played games (56%) or watched video online (55%) and it was not until the age of ten or eleven that they really started to use social networks, with 10% of this group active. By the age of 12, however, the situation was changing rapidly, as 42% were using social media, rising to 65% at age 14 and 85% at age 16.

WhatsApp was by far the most popular choice, with 72% of all respondents using it. Then came Facebook (56%), Skype (46%), Google+ (19%), Instagram (18%) and Twitter (8%).

Data sourced from BITKOM; additional content by Warc staff