Over Half of Children Now Using Smart Devices

Study finds significant growth in kid usage of mobile devices in homes with children aged 2-14

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, September 11, 2013 – According to Kids and Apps: A New Era of Play, the latest report from global information company, The NPD Group, 79 percent of parents with children ages 2 - 14 report that they or their children own some type of mobile device, such as a traditional cell phone, smartphone, or tablet; up from 63 percent last year.

One year ago, when NPD conducted this study for the first time, fewer than half of the families surveyed were smart device capable, and only about a third of children used a tablet or smartphone. This year’s survey update revealed that 51 percent of children are now using smart devices, and nearly 40 percent of the kids represented in the survey are considered a primary user of these devices.

Findings from this latest report show there was modest disruption of traditional play patterns, more so for video games than other forms of entertainment, but there has been little impact on traditional toys.

“We don’t see a trend of children, or their parents, abandoning traditional toys. Not in this report and not in the other recent surveys on how play is evolving,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group. “In fact, kids are equally likely to be playing with most toy categories this year compared to last- what has dipped a bit is the frequency of participation, meaning an activity the child might have done every day in the past, well perhaps they are doing a bit less often; and dip is the correct descriptor – it’s not a crater.”

Children who use smart devices are just as likely to play with vehicles, plush toys, action figures, construction/building sets or dolls as children in households that don’t own a device. And, like kids who regularly use smart devices, children who 
don’t are spending more of their recreational time doing non-organized activities and sports. Most parents feel their children’s device usage hasn’t affected how much time they spend doing other activities.

“Multi-tasking is one factor favoring traditional toys in this battle for timeshare. Device usage tends to be associated with doing other activities, especially watching television. “It’s hard to replace an outdoor or in-person social activity with a device,” continued Crupnick.

According to the report, the number of activities children do on their smart devices is increasing, but playing games using gaming apps remains their favorite type (87 percent). Gaming apps remain the most popular type of apps among children ages 2 - 14 using any smart device but, unlike last year, boys no longer edge out girls in use; females are now equally as likely to use gaming apps as boys.

To Pay or Not to Pay

While the majority of apps downloaded for children are free, the report suggests there is more revenue in the category. Compared to last year, about one-third of parents are spending more on apps for their children using a smart device, and 
parents say they are willing to pay more for apps than what they are currently paying.

Consumers are more likely to pay for children’s movie apps, educational games apps, and books/reading apps. When looking across all app types, parents are willing to pay an average of $5.90 per app.

“The opportunities to upsell to these consumers are significant,” said Crupnick.


An online survey was fielded from June 14 to June 29, 2013, to a representative sample of female adults ages 18 and over who are members of NPD’s online panel and have children ages 2 to 14 in the household. Parents were asked to bring their child to the computer to help complete the survey. In the case of younger children, parents were asked to complete the survey on behalf of their child. Respondents with more than one child in the specified age range were instructed to answer for a randomly selected child. The study is based on 2,248 completed surveys.

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