Manimation ’15 Report – Research: Play, Apps, Habits and Stats

Posted on: Thursday 19 November 2015 3:16pm by Tom Jordan

Speaker: Jackie Marsh (University of Sheffield)
Producer: Helen Brunsdon (Producer/Consultant)


  • Up-to-date academic research on the viewing habits of young people from Professor Jackie Marsh, expert in children and digital literacy.
  • Age range of study is 0-5.
  • Research took the form of a survey of 2000 parents and carers, case studies of 6 families, and was carried out in conjunction with Sheffield and Edinburgh universities, CBeebies, Dubit, Foundling Bird and Monteney Primary School, Sheffield.
  • Detailed findings and figures are available to download from


Professor Jackie Marsh pulled out some highlights from her Technology and Play (TAP) research about the use of apps in pre-schoolers, flagging up interesting findings that may influence the approach taken by content producers.

Full access to the report and all the statistics is available online at, but some of the main findings raised included:

  • About a third of under 5s that have access to tablets own their own device.
  • iPad was most popular tablet with under 5s, although lower-income children were more likely to use other types of tablets.
  • The primary place of use of tablets was in the family home, and then at grandparents’ homes, but very few used them in the early years learning environment.
  • Mean daily usage time was 1 hour 19 minutes on weekdays, 1 hour 31 on weekends.
  • Pre-bedtime was a major timeslot for tablet use; 3-5s used more education apps then under 3s, usually directed by their parents.
  • A high percentage of children in the survey can use tablets unassisted, including swiping, volume control, and opening and closing apps.
  • Key influences on what is downloaded include searching the app store, parents, siblings and friends, but not much from early years education providers.
  • Parents are not so happy to spend money on paid apps, in a way that they will on books; the message that good content is often paid-for content is still not getting across to parents.
  • The top 10 apps for the age range, which included Minecraft and Temple Run, reflected the influence of older siblings, and were not always relevant to the pre-school audience.

Key Findings included:

  • Children immersed in family practices around apps from birth.
  • Tablets are embedded into everyday play activities.
  • Online and offline are merging in relation to play, creativity and literacy.
  • Children are curating their YouTube experience through channels and/or histories.

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Tom Jordan

About the author

Tom Jordan

Freelance, Writer

Tom is a freelance writer and editor based in Sheffield. He has over a decade of experience in travel publishing, writing for National Geographic Traveller, Sunday Times Travel Magazine and CNN, among others, and editing for travel guide books. His recent focus has also been as a development editor in… Read more