The Mobile Society Research Institute, based in Japan, has compiled an international study looking at how kids in Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Mexico use mobile technology in their daily lives. Over 6,000 youth between the ages of 9 and 18 and their parents were surveyed on a range of questions regarding their use, attitudes and feelings toward mobile phones.
Key findings of the MSRI Survey
- Mobile phone technology has become ubiquitous among youth. Key drivers of mobile adoption are age, desire to remain connected with their friends via mobile messaging and network externality.
- Network externality is the process whereby as the number of people who use a certain product increases around its user, the benefit of owning the product for the user also increases. When network externality takes effect, the adoption of the product increases.
- The network effect of friends starting to use mobile phones was also found to be a key trigger for take up of phones by children across all the countries surveyed. The survey found that 24% of children bought their mobile phone when one of their three closest friends bought a mobile phone. The network effect was strongest in Japan and China, and weakest in Mexico.
- Children who use mobile phones show a higher level of trust in new media and a slight increase of distrust of "old media" formats such as newspapers, tv news or radio.
- The survey found that 4% more girls owned a mobile phone than boys, and 9% more girls who did not own a mobile phone wanted to.
- Contrary to theories that mobile phones can be an unwelcome distraction for children, the study found no effective correlation between children’s ownership and usage of mobile phones and the time they spent on other activities.
- Children tend to view their mobile phone as an "information gadget" for communication, especially via mobile email or SMS/text.
- Among those surveyed who send/receive mobile SMS/texting and/or mobile email tend to view their mobile phone as an "essential device" in their life. Moreover, mobile email/SMS technology is used more than "traditional" voice communications. The network effect seems to play an important role in the acquisition of these behaviors.
- Ownership of mobile phones by children has a direct correlation with age, being female, parental income, parental emphasis on education, use of video games and computers.
Use of Mobile Phones Varies by Country
- Among Japanese youth mobile phone use accelerates at Jr. High and High School. In addition, Japanese youth tend to focus more on the functions of their mobile phone than the design.
- The study found that Korean youth are among the youngest to begin using mobile phones. The more the parents emphasize education, the earlier they are to get their first mobile phone. Moreover, Korean youth are more likely to trust in new media than they would in traditional media sources.
- Unlike other countries, the survey found that Chinese boys were more likely to own a mobile phone before Chinese girls. In addition, the "network effect" appears to play a stronger role in the adoption of mobile technology among Chinese youth.
- In India, children are more likely to share a mobile phone with their entire family (parents included) rather than own their own mobile device. Moreover, unlike China and Japan, the "network effect" plays almost no role in when or what age Indian children begin using mobile technology.
- Mexican children, according to the survey, were more likely to choose a mobile phone based on the design features and the network externality and mobile messaging are in full play.
Parental Concerns: Mobile Phones & Kids
- Among the children surveyed, 60% of parents expressed some concerns about their children using mobile technology.
- Out of the five countries included in the survey, Korean parents were the least likely to voice concerns about their children's ability to access information via the mobile web.
- In Korea, information on mobile phone safety is primarily distributed by parents, teachers and friends, mobile operators/vendors and finally the government.
You can download the entire report by clicking here.