One-fifth of third-graders own cell phones

A new study finds that 20 percent of third grade students have cell phones and 90 percent of them are online, while 83 percent of children in middle school have one.

Cell phone use graph in Research Findings: MARC 2011 Survey Grades 3-12 Elizabeth Englander/Bridgewater State University

Cell phone owners are getting younger and younger. According to a new study, 83 percent of middle schoolers, 39 percent of fifth-graders, and 20 percent of third-graders have a mobile device.

Stephanie Englander of Bridgewater University conducted the study (PDF) for the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. Her research consisted of interviews with 20,766 Massachusetts students, in third through twelfth grades, with the goal of seeing whether readily available technology plays a role in cyberbullying.

The study shows that not only do younger kids have cell phones but also more than 90 percent of children are online by third grade.

"Education on cyberbullying and cyber-behaviors needs to begin well before Middle School," Englander recommends in the study. "Children are all online by third grade and over 20 percent report experiencing problems with peers online."

Other findings in the study:

  • By Middle School, 90 percent to 91 percent of children say that they can use their cell phones to text message and access the Internet.
  • Approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of elementary school children report being targets of bullying, while 50 percent to 53 percent of middle and high school students say they've been targets.
  • In-school bullying decreases as children age, however cyberbullying increases as children get older.
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