Children with mobile devices sucking up free WI-Fi at the Hotel BPM in Brooklyn. Photo by parent, Barb DeLollis.

Children with mobile devices sucking up free WI-Fi at the Hotel BPM in Brooklyn. Photo by parent, Barb DeLollis.

Either way you split it, the growing trend among U.S. parents (and grandparents) to buy our kids Wi-Fi-dependent devices isn’t good for hotel Wi-Fi or, in the case of pricier hotels, our wallets.

Mobile life is getting more complicated because – as those of you with kids below 15 already know — kids of all ages are increasingly getting hooked on iPads, tablets and other devices. And if you check into hotels with them, well….

Consider a family of four like mine with older kids aged 10 and 13.

Our teen at home, for instance, uses his Mac laptop to do homework, his Nexus 7 tablet to listen to music, and his smart phone for texts and Instagram. If traveling during the school year, he’ll bring everything so our gadget profile in a hotel often looks like this:

  • Mom: Laptop, iPhone
  • Dad: iPhone and iPad
  • 10 year old: iPad mini
  • 13 year old: Latop, Nexus tablet, smart phone

So, ponder for a moment what that means when you’re about to check into a hotel with either poor quality Wi-Fi or one that charges $5, $10, $15 or more per device! If you’re at the free-Wi-Fi hotel such as a Marriott Courtyard, Hilton Garden Inn or Hyatt Place during a peak-family period, you’d better hope that the hotel has already beefed up the Wi-Fi.

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When our kids aren't hitting the books, playing music or Sabre fencing, they're often sucking up bandwidth.

When our kids aren’t hitting the books, playing music or Sabre fencing, they’re often sucking up bandwidth.

If you’re at a hotel that charges per device or per additional device, then you’d better be sure you have a few extra bucks with you.

Either way, it’s a headache! I recently told my 10-year-old son to do without Wi-Fi when we stayed at a hotel in Manhattan in August because it was going to cost an extra $10 or $15 for the night (he left with his grandparents the following day).

This issue isn’t restricted to parents of older kids.

In the USA, a new study shows, families are increasingly starting off pre-K kids on devices. Are you shocked? I’m not. More than once I’ve seen in airports a tot barely able to walk navigating her dad’s iPad to play a music video or start her favorite TV show.

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The study, done by ad consulting firm Communicus, is based on recent interviews of more than 2,000 adults and nearly 1,400 kids aged 6-17. . Findings from the study:

  • Two-thirds of pre-K-aged kids use tablet devices, and one-third own their own tablet.
  • Among pre-K youth who don’t have their own tablet, 50% ask their parents to buy them one.
  • 18% of pre-K children ask their parents for their own smartphone and 34% ask for their own tablet.

Travelers: How do you manage your kids’ Wi-Fi use when in a hotel? Do you simply avoid hotels that charge per device?

Hoteliers: If you cater to kids, have you begun to notice spikes in your Wi-Fi usage and/or fee income?