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Growing Up Digital – Ofcom’s Contribution to CMC’14

Posted on: Tuesday 19 August 2014 1:25pm by Martina Chapman

Ofcom Martina Chapman 2014Martina Chapman, Senior Research Manager, Ofcom presented one of the nine research strand sessions at CMC in July 2014. Here she reflects on that presentation and reports on the ‘growth spurts’ and ‘growing pains’ of children’s digital media use over the last ten years. 

Slides associated with this report are available here.

Ofcom publishes its ‘Children and Parents’ Media Use and attitudes’ report every autumn, based on over 4000 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5-15, and parents of children aged 3-4.

This research has been running since 2005, so, in addition to highlighting some of key findings from the 2013 report, this article will also take a look back at some of the key changes since 2005.

Tablets are becoming the must-have device for children…

One of the key findings from the 2013 report was the rapid growth in the use of tablets by children.

In 2013, over half of households with children own a tablet – which is more than double the number in 2012 (51% vs. 20% in 2012), while the number of children aged 5-15 who use a tablet at home has tripled since 2012 (42% vs.14%).

The biggest increase was seen among 8-11s where use grew from 13% in 2012 to 44% in 2013.

…while older children opt for smartphones…

Another key finding was the surprising decrease in ownership of mobile phones among children aged 5-15 to 43% for 49% in 2012, which is driven by decreases in the ownership of non-smartphones and in particular by 8-11s, with a 10 percentage point since 2012– the same group that experienced the biggest rise tablet use.

Looking back to 2005, it’s interesting to see that more 8-11s owned a mobile in 2005 than in 2013

And while eight in ten children aged 12-15s owned a mobile phone in 2013 (the same as in 2005) – the big difference now is that the majority of them own a smartphone (62% of 12-15).

… and children are less likely to have other media devices in their bedrooms

The popularity of mobile devices is also impacting on media devices in the bedroom with decreases in TV, games consoles and radios in the child’s bedroom – although this has been a continuing trend since 2007. In particular, having a games console/ player in the bedroom has fallen across all age-groups which could be explained by a threefold increase in using tablet computers to play games (23% vs. 7%).

Looking back to 2005, while there has been a decrease in having a TV in the bedroom since 2005 for both 8-11s (53% vs 71% in 2005) and 12-15s (62% vs 75% in 2005), it is less significant than the increase in having internet in the bedroom.

Children are more likely to go online using a range of devices…

At an overall level, 84% of children accessed the internet at home (using any device) in 2013. While children go online using a range of devices there are changes in the devices they are using to now ‘mostly’ go online, with a significant increase in the use of both tablets (11%) and mobiles (11%) to mostly go online, and although use of a laptop/pc/netbook to mostly go online is still much more common at 68% – this is down from 85% in 2012.

While there is no change since 2012 in the number of hours spent using the internet for 5-7s (6.7 hours per week) or 12-15s (17 hours per week), in 2012, there was an increase for 8-11s (from 8.1 hours per week in 2012 to 9.2 hours per week in 2013).

For the first time fewer children have social networking profiles…

For the first time in this study we have seen a drop in the numbers of 12-15s with a social networking site profile (68% vs. 81%). Nearly nine in ten (87%) of 12-15s who have a social networking profile, consider Facebook to be their main profile, the next closest contender is Twitter at 5%.

Watching TV is still important…

Overall, children aged 5-15 spend more time watching television than using other media. Those aged 12-15 spend 16.6 hours per week watching TV, 8-11s watch TV for 15.2 hours and 5-7s for 13.9 hours per week.

Compared to 2005, 12-15s are spending twice as much time online now (up from 8 hours in 2005 to 17 hours in 2013), but this hasn’t affected the volume of TV that they are consuming.

The majority of TV viewers and internet users aged 12-15 feel that these media help them understand what is going on in the world, make them aware of different types of people and opinions, and help them form their own opinions. However, children are more likely to say that they see people like themselves on the internet than on TV.

…even if children are now more likely to say they would miss other activities…

Television continues to be the medium that children aged 5-15 say they would miss the most, but this varies greatly by age. While 57% of 5-7s and 42% of 8-11s say they would most miss TV,

12-15s are twice as likely to say that, of all the media they use regularly, they would most miss their mobile phone (39%), compared to the next most-missed media: using the internet (19%) and watching television (19%). This rises to half (51%) of 12-15s with a smartphone.

…and access TV content in different ways.

In 2013, 45% of children were watching television programmes on devices other than a TV set. This is a significant increase since 2012 (45% vs. 34%) and reflects the growth in tablets, with 15% of 5-15s watching TV programmes on tablets.

Parental concerns about media continue to fall

In 2013, parents of 5-15s were most likely to be concerned about television (21%) and mobile content (19%), followed by online (16%) and gaming content (13%), with relatively few being concerned about radio content (4%). Since 2009, parents overall are less likely to be concerned about television, online, and gaming content, with the biggest decline in concern being for online and television content.

Parental mediation is complex and individual

83% of parents say that they trust their children online around half of parents think their kids know more about the internet than they do.

Most parents feel they know enough to keep their child safe online. Parents of 5-15s use a combination of approaches to mediate their child’s internet use, including:

  • Regularly talking to their children about staying safe online: Over 4 in 5 parents say they have ever done this – and 45% say they talk to their child at least once a month.
  • Setting rules: Over half of parents have set rules around the use of the internet which include regularly checking what children are doing online or only using it when supervised.
  • Technical mediation: Parents can rely on several types of technical mediation to help their child stay safe online. Across all of the technical methods of mediation, three in five (62%) parents have at least one type in place.

Most parents use a combination of the approaches that work for them.

Eighty-five per cent of parents use at least one of these approaches, with 20% using all three; 35% use two; and 30% use only one.

Of the 15% of parents who do not use any of these elements, 9% have talked to their children about staying safe online but don’t do this regularly, and 6% do none of the things asked about.

Slides associated with this report are available here.

Martina Chapman

About the author

Martina Chapman

Ofcom, Senior Research Manager

Martina is a sector expert in the field of media literacy and currently manages delivery of a number of Ofcom’s research projects including the 2013 ‘Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report’. Her previous roles include Editor for Media Literacy for the BBC where she developed a new strategic… Read more

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