3.5million under-8s have a tablet computer

Apple products

Around 3.5 million children aged eight or under have a tablet computer, new research indicates, with parents spending a collective £5.6 billion on gadgets for their kids in 2013.

Comparison site uSwitch found that nearly four million children learned to use tablets and smartphones by the time they were three years old, with a remarkable one in ten children mastering the gadgets by the time they were just two years of age.

However, the research also found that around 12% of children have run up unexpected bills by making in-app purchases and close to a fifth of parents (16%) believe their under-16s are addicted to gadgets.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, said: "The price of an entry-level tablet is now under £100, making them an attractive - and affordable - piece of kit for the whole family.

"They can also make lessons, homework and bedtime stories both fun and interactive, so it's little wonder that more British parents are caving in to demands from their tech-savvy children."

However, Doku warned that parents need to keep tabs on what their children get up to online by laying out ground rules – or they risk paying escalating bills for in-app purchases, many of which are available in supposedly 'free' games.

"[In-app purchases] can usually be disabled or placed behind a PIN within your device's 'settings' menu, ensuring that little ones can enjoy a tablet without causing a big financial headache," Doku advised.

At least eight in ten parents (84%) splashed out on tech for their children in 2013, the research found, spending an average of £462 each. But over a third (36%) of parents expect to spend even more on gadgets for their children in 2014.

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