SAN FRANCISCO--Nearly half of kids age 8 to 12 years old own cell phones in the U.S., in what could be the next big cell phone demographic for the mobile industry, according to a Nielsen report released here Wednesday at the CTIA Fall 2008 trade show.
Nielsen says that 46 percent of the 20 million young consumers known as "tweens" are using mobile phones. On average kids get their first cell phone between the ages of 10 and 11 years old. About 55 percent of tweens, who own cell phones, send text messages and 21 percent download ringtones.
The main reason these kids have phones is because their parents want them to have them in case of an emergency or problem. But about 92 percent of those surveyed said they restrict how tweens use their phones, with 69 percent of them prohibiting the download of games and ringtones, which typically incur charges. Roughly 65 percent of tweens with phones get cell phone service through family plans.
As cell penetration approaches 85 percent in the U.S., cell phone operators are looking toward younger consumers to drive growth. And operators are focusing more effort in figuring out what is needed from this often difficult to survey group of consumers.
"Tweens have grown up with mobile phones and expect them to do much more than make a call," Richard Wood, a vice president for Nielsen Mobile said in a statement. "Our clients want to understand tweens' attitudes and mobile behavior in the context of their daily life and media consumption."
But tweens aren't the only young demographic that the mobile industry is interested in targeting. On Friday the CTIA will feature a session at its fall trade show here that will provide results of a national survey of thousands of American teenagers. It will also provide a live panel of 13- to 19-year-olds, who will discuss how they use wireless. So stay tuned for more on those results later this week.