7 years old- the average age a child receives their first mobile device in the UAE

Parents feel guilty about the amount of time they spend online in front of their children, and their children are not shy about reprimanding them according to recent research from Norton by Symantec. The survey found that more than three in four respondents in the UAE (78%) suggested parents are setting a bad example by spending too much time online, and more than half (53%) admitted they have been told off by their own children for their behavior, highlighting how today’s families are struggling to enforce healthy screen time routines in an increasingly connected world.

Surveying nearly 7,000 parents across Europe and the Middle East (EMEA) showed that unlike them, their children have never known a world without smartphones and tablets. Therefore, today’s parents are embarking on a new frontier, questioning the right age at which their child should be exposed to screen time or have their “own” device, whilst also reflecting on their own personal habits and potential effects on their children. 

Nick Shaw, the vice president and general manager of Norton, EMEA, believes that modern-day parenting is not easy. According to Nick, the old challenges of getting children to eat their greens, get to bed on time and do their homework are all still there, but there is now an added layer of technology that parents have to navigate. Unlike their children, most parents today didn’t grow up with connected devices like smartphones and tablets, which leaves them struggling with making and enforcing screen time rules.

The UK topped the charts with British children spending the most time in front of mobile devices – nearly three hours per day. And while children in the UAE ranked 5th, with over 25 minutes less than those in the UK, Spanish children spent the least time on mobile devices across EMEA, only 30 minutes less than their peers.


More than half of parents in the UAE believe mobile technology and mobile devices can help foster children’s problem solving and learning skills (62%), among the highest, with almost three-quarters (72%) saying that children being in charge of their own devices teaches them responsibility.

But it’s not all good news, as parents also have real concerns about the potential negative impact of device usage. More than half of parents in the UAE (52%) say mobile screen time affects their child’s quality of sleep. Parents across EMEA also worry about the detrimental impact devices have on energy levels (42%), social skills (40%), and mental health (37%).

These concerns are only growing as children get their own devices at increasingly younger ages. Norton’s research shows that parents are giving in to pester power, as on average children in the UAE are getting their first device at the age of 7 – that is 3 years younger than parents feel their children should be allowed one. In the United Arab Emirates, the difference is one of the greatest across EMEA. On an average, children in other countries receive their first device only one year earlier than when their parents feel they should have them.

Statistics also showed that over half of parents across EMEA (59%) allow their child to go online alone in their bedrooms, and over a third (35%) admit this is true even for children aged from five to seven. For parents in the UAE, this percentage is less, where only 45 % allow their child to go online in their bedroom.

Most parents do try to enforce rules around screen time but admit that they may be their own worst enemy, as they feel they fail in setting good examples for their children. .


The digital world has parents feeling at a loss with almost 48% of them saying they want to set limits and parental influence on the use of connected devices, but they don’t know how to do so, while 64% want more advice and support to help them protect their children online. And one in 10 parents don’t set any rules at all for device usage, saying their children are so tech savvy they would be able to get around the rules.

Interestingly, the report also found the level of strictness increasing among younger parents (75%) and parents of younger children (74%). Those groups were more likely to be strict compared to older parents and those with older children.

Despite the challenges, parents in the UAE are the keenest to manage their child’s device use, but many feel at a loss as to how to do it.

Over half of parents across EMEA (59%) allow their child to go online alone in their bedrooms, and over a third (35%) admit this is true even for children aged from five to seven. For parents in the UAE the number is event less, whe4re only 45 per cent allow their child to go online in their bedroom.

Since parents are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impacts of not controlling their children in the usage of smartphones and tablets, they yearn for guidance in enforcing healthy screen routines.


Here are some practical tips to help parents better manage their childrens’ usage of smart devices:

  1. Establish house rules and guidelines: 

    These can include setting limits to screen time, the type of content a child accesses online or the appropriate tone of language to use online. These rules should vary depending on your children’s age, maturity and understanding of the risks they could face online.

  2. Encourage your children to go online in communal spaces:

    It’s about striking a balance where they don’t feel that you are constantly looking over their shoulder and don’t feel like they need to hide to go online. It will help put your mind at ease about what they are doing, and they’ll know they can come to you if they are confused, frightened or concerned.

  3. Encourage and maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with your children:

    It is important to educate children on unfortunate events and experiences that take place through internet usage, for example: cyberbullying. Children don’t tend to look into how things could take a turn for the worse through social media.

  4. Encourage kids to think before they click:

    Whether they’re looking at online video sites, receiving an unknown link in an email or even browsing the web, remind your child not to click on links, which may take them to dangerous or inappropriate sites. Clicking unknown links is a common way people get viruses or reveal private and valuable information about themselves.

  5. Look out for harmful content: 

    From websites to apps, games and online communities, your kids have access to a lot of content that can affect them both positively and negatively. Using smart family security and parental web safety tools, as well as the built-in security settings in your browsers, can help the whole family stay safe. 

  6. Discuss the risks of posting and sharing private information, videos, and photographs:

    This is extremely crucial to be brought to a child’s attention. Social media has all come down to the number of likes, views and re-tweets your posts get. And children have grabbed onto that very notion where they instantly look for the number of likes they get over their friends. They should be made aware of the risks that come along with sharing such personal information on random, unauthorized websites.

  7. Be a good role model:

     Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour, so lead by example. If you don’t want your children to use their phones in-between meals, well its time you put down your phone too. Children, these days, are quick to point out when they are treated unfair. Hence, if rules are put in place, see that you stick to it as well. Atleast in front of them.

  8. Use a robust and trusted security software solution:

    To help keep your children and devices protected against malicious websites, viruses, phishing attempts and other online threats designed to steal personal and financial information.


A soul that loves to curate an amalgamation of thought-provoking, articulate and visually appealing content, Namita has a strong passion for media and artistic collaboration. Art, to her, is freedom of expression and she hopes to curate content that speaks for, both, the unspoken and herself.