More than half (53%) of children in the UK own a mobile phone by the age of seven while a similar proportion (57%) say they sleep with their mobile device beside their bed, a new survey has revealed.

And in a sign of just how dependent young people have become on their mobiles, research firm Childwise also found 44% would feel uncomfortable if they are ever left without a phone signal, 42% say they keep their phone with them at all times, while 39% say they could not live without one.

Based on responses from 2,167 children aged five to 16, the report also revealed that they spend an average three hours and 20 minutes per day messaging, playing games and being online.

Furthermore, there is little good news for those parents already worried about how to limit their children’s mobile usage because phone ownership among children is now “almost universal” once they reach secondary school age at 11.

“This year, young children have increasing access to mobile phones and they are using them for longer periods of time,” said Simon Leggett, research director at Childwise, in comments reported by the Daily Mail.

“With the majority of children now phone owners by age seven, average daily usage among 7- to 10-year-olds has gone up by almost an hour a day,” he added.

And with more children owning mobile phones and using them more often to browse the internet, this in turn is changing their viewing habits and the content they watch.

For example, only around one in five say they mostly watch programmes on a TV set, while mobile is used much more widely to listen to music than a traditional radio, the BBC reported.

YouTube is their favourite app, used by 61% of children every day, while Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and Fortnite are also very popular. Interestingly, Facebook does not feature in the top ten of favourite websites.

“It’s a new era for content and TV and a completely new way of doing things,” said Leggett. “Children are online all the time, checking in on their mobiles while out and about. Content is likely to get shorter and shorter to fit with this way of viewing.”

Sourced from Childwise, Daily Mail, BBC; additional content by WARC staff