Two-thirds of Kiwi kids have their own cellphone by the age of 11, a new survey has found.
Census At School, which has surveyed just over 23,000 children at 458 schools so far this year, has found that almost a quarter of children have their own phone by Year 4 - around the age of 8 - and 64 per cent do by Year 7, around age 11.
Just over 90 per cent have their own phone by the first year of high school and 98 per cent by their final year.
Although the census has been running since 2003, this is the first time it has asked a question in this format, providing the first hard data on how many children have phones and what they do with them.
• READ MORE : High-schoolers: 'Save us from our phones'
Netsafe education director Sean Lyons said it was reassuring that the data shows a gradual increase in phones across the age range.
"What we are seeing is a trajectory of increasing responsibility, increasing maturity and increasing capability, and that is recognised by both the kids, the parents and probably the schools," he said.
"I'd be more concerned if we were seeing that 90 per cent of Year 4 kids were taking phones to school. Maybe there are kids at that age that have the required skills and maturity and capability, but I doubt it would be all of them."
The census is run by the University of Auckland with support from Statistics NZ and the Ministry of Education.
It is available online for any teacher to participate in with their class in Years 5 to 13, attracting the largest numbers of 3700 students or more from each year level in the intermediate Years 7 and 8 and in the first year of high school, Year 9.
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A small number of Year 4 students, 281 so far this year, also participated mainly because they were in joint classes for Years 4 and 5.
Shaania Lal, an 11-year-old Year 7 student at South Auckland's Mission Heights Junior College, got her first phone late last year and believes that was too soon.
"I feel Year 8s and above should get a phone. I feel like Year 7s are too young to get a phone because they don't do their work on them," she said.
Mission Heights allows students to bring their phones to school as long as they keep them in their bags and on silent in class time, unless they are being used for educational purposes such as making and editing films or taking photos for scientific experiments.
But Shaania said students often looked at them in a session called DEEP (Discovery, Essentials, Enrichment and Passions) when they are allowed to pursue individual interests.
She brings her phone to school "in case of an emergency if my parents call or text to say they are running late to pick me up".
"I always check the phone at morning tea and lunch," she said.
The census found that only 40 per cent of Year 7 students across New Zealand actually took phones to school, even though 64 per cent owned one.
Only 10 per cent or less took phones to school in Years 4 to 6. But 52 per cent took phones to school in Year 8, rising to 96 per cent by Year 13.
Fewer than 6 per cent of students in each primary and intermediate year admitted in the online survey that they "lost focus" in school due to their phone at least sometimes, but that jumped to 17 per cent in Year 9 and 50 per cent by Year 13.
Mission Heights principal Ian Morrison said mobile phones were "a reality of modern living" and the school taught students about how to use them safely and responsibly in a unit called "Digital Passport".
"The Year 7 students use an app called Interland , which is an introduction to cyber citizenship and caring and safety. That's on their phones and is part of our e-learning once a week," he said.
The school has a firewall that blocks access to social media in school.
• Today : Screens
• Tomorrow : Exercise and diet
• Wednesday : Getting to school
• Thursday : Bed times
• Friday : Opinions and diversity