13 planning insights from Ofcom's children and parents media report
I’ve read the latest 230 page Ofcom report so that you don’t have to. It reports on children’s media literacy.
Ofcom’s Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2016 provides detailed evidence on media use, attitudes and understanding among children and young people in the UK.
The report also includes findings relating to parents’ views about their children’s media use, and the ways that parents manage the use of different types of media.
It covers ages 5 to 15, with detailed information about how young children aged 3 to 4 access and consume media. It is recommended reading for anyone working with this demographic and in particular parents of children and young adults.
Here’s what I learnt.
#1 Time spent watching TV decreasing
The number of 5 to 15s who say they use a TV set almost every day has decreased since 2015 (80% vs. 87%), along with the time spent watching TV on a TV set, falling from 14 hours 48 minutes in 2015 to 13 hours 36 minutes.
#2 Family TV as an event
Time spent watching TV may be decreasing but live or on-demand content on TV is a valued family activity.
The family viewing experience is reflected in the most popular programmes among children in 2015, with family shows like Britain’s Got Talent, The Great British Bake Off, The Voice and Strictly Come Dancing all in the top 10.
#3 5 to 15s now spend more time online than watching TV
As TV viewing time falls, children are spending more time online, with the estimated time both 3 to 4s and 5 to 15s spend online increasing (6 hours 48 minutes to 8 hours 18 minutes for 3 to 4s and 13 hours 42 minutes to 15 hours for 5 to 15s).
5 to 15s now spend more time online than watching television on a TV set (15 hours vs. 13 hours 36 minutes). This differs by age, with 5 to 7s continuing to spend more time watching TV, 8 to 11s now spending similar amounts of time online as watching TV and 12 to 15s continuing to spend more time online than watching TV on a TV set.
#4 Console, phone and tablet generation
These changes do not mean that children are consuming less content. The numbers of 6 to 15s consuming paid video on demand and watching online video clips has increased since 2014.
Qualitative research found that children access a significant amount of content alone on their personal devices, and this seems to be increasing.
#5 YouTube important content destination
YouTube is popular across all ages, particularly among older children, with 37% of 3 to 4s, 54% of 5 to 7s, 73% of 8 to 11s and 87% of 12 to 15s using the YouTube website or app.
The content children like to watch on YouTube differs by age. Younger children (3 to 7) are most likely to watch TV programmes, films, cartoons, mini-movies, animations or songs.
As children get older this makes way for music videos, funny videos/ pranks and content posted by vloggers, with the qualitative research finding that vloggers in particular are an important source of teen orientated content.
#6 Tablets and mobile phones most popular internet devices
Since 2015 there have been increases in the numbers of 5 to 15s who say that a tablet or mobile phone is the device they use most often to go online, (39% vs. 33% for tablets and 28% vs. 19% for mobile phones). As a result, the mobile phone is now the second most popular device to go online (after tablets), overtaking laptops which were the second most popular device in 2015.
#7 5 to 15s mobile phone adoption up
5 to 15s are more likely to both use and own a mobile phone than in 2015, and four in ten (41%) now have their own smartphone.
Increases in smartphone ownership are particularly evident for 8 to 11s (32% vs. 24%) and for 12 to 15s (79% vs. 69%). As a result, although tablet ownership is higher than smartphone ownership up to the age of 10, the two are then fairly even until age 12, when smartphone ownership begins to outstrip tablet ownership.
#8 Mobile phone preference from age 11
Before the age of 10 children are more likely to nominate a TV set or a tablet than a mobile phone as the device they would miss the most. This switches at the age of 11 with a clear preference for a mobile phone over other devices.
#9 Social media and gaming
The number of children with a social media profile doubles between the ages of 10 and 11. The likelihood of having a social media profile increases with age; 0% of 3 to 4s, 3% of 5 to 7s, 23% of 8 to 11s and 72% of 12 to 15s have a profile. The biggest increase comes between ages 10 and 11, when the number with a profile doubles from 21% to 43%, and there is another sharp increase between 12 and 13, from 50% to 74%.
#10 One in ten 11 to 15s are still communicating via social media at 10pm
Social media accounts for a fifth of all media and communications time for 11 to 15s. A sizeable minority of both 8 to 11s (11%) and 12 to 15s (28%) say they access their main social media account more than ten times a day. By 9pm 15% of 11 to 15s are still communicating via social media, and 2% are still messaging at midnight.
#11 Pressure for likes
Likes on social media are an important social currency. Children remove posts if they don’t receive what they considered to be an acceptable number. Some have developed this further, timing their posts for 8pm to 10pm, what they called Instagram ‘prime time’, in order to maximise the number of likes received.
8.15pm is the peak time for social media use among 11 to 15s, with 38% using a social media site at this point.
#12 Facebook most popular social media but others growing
Both 8 to 11s (43%) and 12 to 15s (52%) are most likely to consider Facebook their main social media profile. This is unchanged since 2015 but has fallen considerably since 2013, when 87% of 12 to 15s considered Facebook their main site.
The numbers of 12 to 15s using SnapChat have continued to grow (51%, up from 43% in 2015), while fewer say they use Twitter (20%, down from 27%).
Children are more likely than in 2015 to be using group chat services to chat with both family and friends, including SnapChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
#13 Games as a chat medium
Children are most likely to play games by themselves or with people they already know. However, one in ten 8 to 11s (10%) and twice as many 12 to 15s (21%) say they play games online with people they have never met and 5% of 8 to 11s and 14% of 12 to 15s say that they use the games’ chat features to chat to others also signed in to the game.
You can download the Ofcom Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2016 from the Ofcom web site (opens as a PDF).