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

Published in 2013 by the GSM Association and the Mobile Society Research Institute within NTT DOCOMO Inc, Japan

A summary of this publication provided by the mobile phone industry is given below.

Chapter 3
Children and mobile phones – an overview
• 65% of all children surveyed currently use a mobile
phone; of those, 81% have a new handset.
• 12 is the most common age for children to get their first
mobile phone.
• 27% of child mobile phone owners have a smartphone.
Children’s smartphone ownership in India and Indonesia
is double that of their parents.
• Children whose parents own smartphones or featurephones
are more likely to have one also.
• Tablet use is relatively low with only 18% penetration in
Egypt and Chile, 7% in Indonesia and between 5–7% in
Japan and India.

Chapter 4
Children’s use of mobile phones
• Initially, children use their mobile phone predominantly
for calling; however, as they get older, messaging
becomes the preferred choice of communication.
• Nearly 24% and 20% of children in Indonesia and India
respectively, send over 51 messages a day.
• 54% of all child mobile phone users access the mobile
internet; this increases to over 87% when looking
exclusively at smartphone users.
• 70% of all children who use the internet through their
phone access it at least once a day.
• 11% of child mobile phone users surveyed list their
handset as their primary device for accessing
the internet; this increases to almost 32% among
smartphone users.
• Cameras are the most used pre-installed function on
mobiles (75%) followed by music players (60%) and
movie players (50%).

Chapter 5
Apps, social networking and other services
• Of those children who access the internet via their
mobile phone, 57% download or use apps; this is highest
in Chile (78%) and lowest in Egypt (44%).
• Across all countries, entertainment apps are the most
popular among children.
• Entertainment is the only category of apps that children
use more than their parents across all countries.
• Information apps have the greatest increase in use as
children get older, starting at 18% use for 8-year-olds
and rising to 36% at age 18. Although entertainment
apps are the most popular, they are the only app
category to decline from 90% use at age 10 to 77%
at age 18.
• 49% of children who access the internet via a mobile
phone use it for social networking. 45% of these have
have their profiles set to public; this is as high as 55%
among 13-year olds.
• 70% of children have met or started to communicate
with ‘new friends’ online.

Chapter 6
Parental concerns and digital literacy
• Over 70% of parents have concerns about children’s
mobile phone use, with viewing inappropriate sites and
overuse sharing the highest percentage at around 82%.
• Parents whose children use social networking sites are
no more concerned about privacy than those whose
children don’t.
• 65% of all parents surveyed set rules on their children’s
mobile phone use, but there was no common response
to rule-breaking across all countries.
• Over 54% of parents who have access to parental
control solutions use them; content filters are the most
popular control method at 57%.
• Almost 67% of parents believe that an adult in the family
should educate their children about mobile phone use;
this is a consistent preference across all countries.


Belgium to restrict use of mobile phones among children

More information is given below:


Children’s mobile phones may no longer be sold. Besides this, the specific absorption rate (SAR) has to be listed for every mobile phone at the point of sale.

New regulation for the sale of mobile phones as of 2014

As of 1 March 2014, new regulations will apply to the sale of mobile phones. On the one hand the sale of mobile phones that have been specially manufactured for young children (under 7s) will be prohibited. On the other hand the SAR value will have to be listed everywhere where mobile phones are sold: in stores as well as for distance sales over the Internet.

Sale of children’s mobile phones prohibited

As of 1 March 2014, mobile phones that are specially designed for young children may no longer be introduced to the Belgian market. This concerns customised mobile telephones suitable for children younger than 7 years of age, for instance having few buttons and a shape attractive for children. Additionally, from this date forward, no advertising may be made for mobile phone use among the same age group.
The specific absorption rate (SAR) to become mandatory consumer information
When you purchase a new mobile phone, from now on you will be able to choose your new device based on the specific absorption rate (SAR). The SAR value is different for every mobile phone. The SAR value will have to be indicated along with the other technical specifications, not only in the shop, but also for distance sales over the Internet.

Why these measures?

As a precaution. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, 2011) there may be an increased risk of brain cancer due to the intensive use of a mobile phone. The IARC has therefore classified radio frequency as “possibly carcinogenic”. Measures are being taken pending clearer scientific conclusions. The intention is to raise awareness among mobile phone users.

You can reduce your average exposure by choosing a mobile phone with a lower SAR value. But it is not the intention to use it for hours at a time: the way in which you use your mobile phone also determines your exposure. Using an earpiece, text messaging and not phoning in places with poor reception are a few tips that can significantly reduce your exposure. You can find more tips on our page “sensible mobile phone use ”.

Children already come into contact with mobile phones from a very young age. The overall exposure during their lifetime will thus be greater than that of today’s adults. Moreover, children absorb more mobile phone radiation than adults (twice as much in the brain and 10 times more for skull bone marrow). This is already a reason for additional caution, given the classification of radio frequency as “possible carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Want to know more?

Then check out our list of frequently asked questions.
You can find more information about sensible mobile phone use and the IARC’s classification on this page.
You can download the Royal Decree on the ban of mobile phones for children here.
The Royal Decree which makes the mention of the SAR value mandatory for mobile phone sales and which prohibits advertising for children can be downloaded here.


Note that the classification Group 2B of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields holds for the whole radiofrequency frequency and not only mobile phones. Thus it included base-station antennas, Wi-Fi, smartmeters etc., see below:

Robert Baan, PhD, is the principal author of the 2011 IARC Monograph on the carcinogenicity of radiofrequency radiation. He provided this interpretation of the May 31, 2011 classification by IARC of RFR as a Possible Human Carcinogen (a 2B classification). Baan says that the IARC RFR classification as a Possible Human Carcinogen applies to all types of RFR exposures including smart meters.

“So the classification 2B, possibly carcinogenic, holds for all types of radiation within the radiofrequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum, including the radiation emitted by base-station antennas, radio/TV towers, radar, Wi-Fi, smart meters, etc.”