How Children Use Phones

What Do Children Use Their Mobiles For?

Mobile Use in Children - Schoolchild Survey - Graph from Education Quizzes

Mobile phones are everywhere. We all have one and we use them for much more than phone calls and text messages. Modern devices are like miniature desktops with all sorts of applications, from weather reports and shopping apps to social media and web browsers. Very versatile little machines and a far cry from the old landlines my generation grew up with.

Most children, at least over a certain age, also have mobile phones and this made us wonder – what exactly do they use them for: talking, playing, surfing or something else? To find the answer we asked 1,113 schoolchildren which apps and functions on their device they would rather do without if they had to. The results are quite surprising.

Games and Social Media Least Popular

For many of us, the first thing we associate with children is playing games. Games consoles are billion-pound industries and children apparently love them. So you may be shocked to hear that the function children would miss the least on their phones is games. Over a quarter of our respondents (28%) chose games as the app they would most happily do without.

Another feature inherent to modern life, and associated with the younger generation, is social media. People spend hours scrolling through posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. So, you might expect these to be highly rated. Not a bit of it. Just under a sixth (17%) of children said they would do without social media. Not taking into account “other apps” (a sweeping category which I am surprised did not come first) that’s the second least popular use of a mobile for children.

Phone Calls Still Popular

The main function of a phone, even in this day and age, is to send and receive calls. At least you would think so. But do children think the same? It seems they do, yes. A lowly 10% of those who answered our survey said that they could do without them. Alexander Graham Bell would be proud of his invention, still popular after all these years.

Video calls were a thing of science fiction when I was growing up. A pipe dream, still far, far in the future. Not anymore. With apps like messenger, Zoom, Teams and a whole host of others, seeing the person you are talking to is now a standard part of distance communication. It is not as popular as the good old fashioned phone call though. 14% of our respondents said they would miss them the least.

Search Engines Most Popular

So, if phone and video calls are not the most prized function of a mobile, then what is? The most popular function amongst children on a mobile phone is the search engine. These have become such a part of modern life. No more need to rummage through encyclopaedias, dictionaries or reference books to find what you need to know. Simply “Google” it. Other search engines are available of course, but the word “google” has entered the language as a verb meaning “to use a search engine" – now that’s success for you.

What Do Adults Use Their Phones For?

Mobile Use - Adult Survey - Graph from Education Quizzes

We put the very same question to adults and the results were not that different. Games were again the least popular function, with a whopping 40% of over 18s saying they would miss them the least. Still quite surprising. I know many adults who seem to be addicted to mobile games like Candy Crush or others. And mirroring the children’s survey, after “other apps,” social media was the next least popular use. It seems we are not as addicted to sharing our lives on the net as people believe.

When it comes to the most popular function, again, adults and children seem to agree. Only 11% would choose to do without video calls, and an even tinier 7% would deny themselves phone calls. But wearing the crown of the most popular function is – you guessed it – search engines. In the modern age the immense library of information at our fingertips has become an essential part of our lives.


Full Results of our "How Do Children Use Mobile Phones?” Survey

Here are the results from the 1,133 children who answered our question "Which of the following would you rather live without on mobile a phone?" The survey was conducted in the week ending 28th March 2021.

Which of the following would you rather live without on a mobile phone? Percentage of Respondents
Games 28%
Other Apps 23%
Phone Calls 10%
Search Engines 8%
Social Media 17%
Video Calls 14%

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