The internet has overtaken TV as the top media pastime for British children for the very first time, according to a new report from Ofcom, the UK’s regulator and competition authority for the communications industries. The study, titled Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes, found that children are using the Internet more than ever before, with youngsters aged 5-15 spending around 15 hours each week online, overtaking the time spent watching a TV set for the first time.
Even preschoolers aged 3 to 4 are now spending an average of eight hours and 18 minutes a week online, which is up an hour and a half from six hours 48 minutes in the last year. According to Ofcom’s data, children aged 5-15 have increased their weekly online time by an hour and 18 minutes in the last year to 15 hours.
This growth has eaten into the amount of time that children are spending watching a TV set (although – once BARB’s data becomes available – it’ll be interesting to see how much of the time spent online is spent watching SVOD and content from broadcasters ), with their weekly viewing dropping from 14 hours 48 minutes in 2015 to 13 hours 36 minutes in the last year.
YouTube is Popular ‘Go-To’ Destination, But TV Still Plays an Important Role
YouTube continues to be one of the most popular online destinations for children, with around three quarters (73 percent) of those aged 5-15 using the video platform. It is also a hit with pre-schoolers with 37 percent regularly watching YouTube videos, who typically pick ‘TV content’ such as cartoons and mini-movies. Similarly, older children are showing a preference for YouTube with four in ten 8-11s and 12-15s saying they prefer watching YouTube than the TV set.
That said, Ofcom’s research shows that TV still plays an important role in children’s lives with nine in 10 still watching, for the most part every day, and the largest number of children watching at peak family viewing time, 6–9pm.
Digital devices are more widespread among children than ever. And it’s not longer just about children borrowing mum and dad’s devices either, even for the very young — Ofcom found that over a third (34 percent) of pre-schoolers aged 3-4 own their own media device, such as a tablet or games console. Pre-schoolers typically enjoy digital entertainment on a tablet, with more than half (55 percent) using one, with 16 percent owning their own tablet – up from just 3 percent in 2013.
However, as children reach pre-to-early teenage years, they ten to prefer smartphones to tablets – with the proportion of children owning one up from 35 percent to 41 percent in the last year. This means one in three tweens (8-11s), and eight in 10 older children (12-15s) now have their own smartphone.
As children spend more of their time online, Ofcom say that their awareness of advertising and ‘vlogger’ endorsements has also increased with more than half of internet users aged 12-15 (55 percent) now aware that online advertising can be personalised – up 10 percentage points in the last year. And, 12-15s awareness of product endorsement from vloggers has also increased by 10 percentage points to 57% in 2016.
But, many children still need help to identify advertising on search engines like Google, with only a minority of 8-11s (24%) and 12-15s (38%) correctly recognising sponsored links.