One in 10 parents in the UK feels it’s appropriate for children as young as four years old to own a mobile phone, while one in 10 kids under the age of 10 already owns an iPhone, according to a survey by Westcoastcloud (, a supplier of cloud-based, Internet security services.

Westcoastcloud commissioned the survey to coincide with the release of its iPad Internet security product for schools, Netintelligence. The report found that one in 20 primary school children now own an iPad.

The extent to which today’s youngsters rely on technology was revealed following a study of 2,000 parents of children aged 10 and under. The Westcoastcloud poll found that 17% of parents bought their kids a phone after they succumbed to their child’s pestering. Typically, parents felt comfortable buying their child a mobile or the latest smartphone like an iPhone or Blackberry at the age of 10, with 68% doing so because they wanted to keep tabs on their kids.

However, the survey also revealed that almost one in 10 primary school aged children had a social networking account — the age at which children are eligible to have a Facebook or MySpace account is 13. A quarter of parents said their child had an email account.

“It’s great that youngsters are interested and engaged with the latest technology, but children owning their own phones as young as four does seem unnecessary,” says Bill Strain, director of Westcoastcloud. “Kids will always be able to gain access to their parents’ phones and laptops but when primary school age children gain access to the Internet on these devices, parents need to be aware. There’s the potential that they could access unsuitable or potentially harmful content.”

The survey also found that a third of the children who used their parents’ phones did so for Internet-related activities such as looking at You Tube, emailing, or using Facebook or Twitter.

“With children of a younger and younger age accessing technology, even owning technology, it is all the more important that we are equipping them to navigate these technologies safely,” says Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet International the children’s internet charity.

The study found that 88% of parents paid the bills for their child’s phone with two thirds of kids topping up monthly with “pay as you go” payment plans. Three quarters of parents spend around 10 pounds a month on their child’s phone bill — but one in five parents have kids that rack up £20 bills every month.

It also emerged that half of all parents completing the poll owned an iPhone or Blackberry and 72% owned laptops and tablets. Fifteen percent of parents said their child uses their smartphone regularly and one in 10 kids are perfectly au fait at logging on to a tablet that belongs to mum or dad.

A large percentage of kids under ten can makes calls, one in five can competently text, one in 20 can draft and send an email and 10% can go online. More than a quarter of youngsters can take photos or videos and play on applications.

More than one in twenty parents said their child is more competent on the phone than they are, so they don’t bother to check what they are looking at on the phone. Parents estimated their offspring spent nearly three hours per week online, whether it’s via a phone or computer.

Half of the mothers and fathers questioned said they have no parental controls installed on their Internet-connected devices to block access to certain websites — despite 5% of parents saying their child uses their phone or laptop when they’re out. Twelve percent claim their child doesn’t really know what they are doing online and regularly they leave them to “play” on their laptop or tablet.

Not surprisingly 22% of those polled said they frequently argued with their child about the amount of time they spend online. Despite this, three quarters of parents said they wanted their child to be computer literate, and 48% are pleased their kids are interested in it. A third said being adept on a laptop and phone will do them no harm although half thought their kids would be “lost” without technology as traditional things like days out and sport no longer amuse them.

“If parents are happy for their children to be using these products they need to understand that the Internet is not a private place,” Bill Strain of Westcoastcloud, says.”Filtering products are available that can help parents keep their children safe online.”