One in three children in the UK now has their own tablet computer, which has nearly doubled in a year, according to Ofcom research,which also suggests the popularity of the tablet could be contributing to the declining number of children with a TV set in their bedroom.
Among children aged between 5 and 15, 34 per cent now have their own tablet, rather than using devices belonging to their parents or school, up from a fifth (19 per cent) in 2013.
Six in ten (62 per cent) children use a tablet at home, which has risen by half in a year (42 per cent in 2013).
A sharp increase in tablet ownership among very young children means that some are using one to surf the web, play games and watch video clips before they join school. More than one in 10 children aged 3-4 now have their own tablet (11 per cent, up from 3 per cent in 2013).
Twice as many children aged 5-15 are using a tablet to go online (42 per cent versus 23 per cent in 2013), which could have implications in future use of laptops and PCs. For the first time, the proportion of children accessing the internet on a PC, laptop or netbook fell, by three percentage points, year on year, to 88 per cent.
These trends are highlighted in Ofcom’s annual Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report, which examines children’s use of different media and communications, and the role parents play in overseeing them.
Children less likely to have a TV in their bedroom
The popularity of the tablet could be contributing to the declining number of children with a TV set in their bedroom. This has decreased by a third over the past five years (from 66 per cent in 2009 to 46 per cent in 2014).
The proportion of children watching TV on a tablet has risen by a third in a year to 20 per cent (up from 15 per cent in 2013) while a third (33 per cent) watch on-demand TV.
Despite the decline of TV sets in the bedroom, children still say that they would miss TV (34 per cent) more than other popular devices (17 per cent for mobile, 15 per cent for tablets and 11 per cent for games console). However, older children aged 12-15 are twice as likely to miss their mobile phone compared to TV (37 per cent versus 18 per cent)
Children aged 5-15 also spend more time watching TV every week (14.6 hours) than doing any other media activity, although there has been a decrease since 2013 when it was 15.4 hours.
Previous Ofcom research has found that families are coming together in the living room to watch bigger and better TVs, and use portable media devices like tablets and smartphones.
There has been a three-fold increase in a year in the number of children’s households with a ‘smart TV’ (from 13 per cent in 2013 to 39 per cent). Internet-enabled ‘smart TVs’ allow viewers access to a range on online services, such as catch-up TV. One in three children (31 per cent) has a smartphone, stable since last year (29 per cent).
The proportion of children with games consoles in their bedrooms has also declined over the past year (41 per cent, down from 47 per cent in 2013). Tablets are also becoming increasingly popular for games, with more children playing on this device (30 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2013).
Over the past five years, the proportion of children that have radios in their bedroom has halved, down from 32 per cent in 2009 to 14 per cent in 2013. However, this has remained stable over the last year.
Girls prefer more ‘sociable’ media
Girls appear to use their devices for social activities more than boys do. In a typical week, older girls aged 12-15 send more text messages than boys (163 versus 113) and make more mobile phone calls (23 versus 17).
Nearly half (47 per cent) of older girls say that a mobile phone is the device they would most miss, compared to nearly a third of older boys (29 per cent). Girls of this age are also more likely than boys to most miss a tablet computer (16 per cent versus 9 per cent).
Older girls and boys (12-15) are equally active on social media (71 per cent have a profile). However, girls are more likely than boys to use Instagram (42 per cent versus 30 per cent), SnapChat (33 per cent versus 20 per cent) and Tumblr (11 per cent versus 3 per cent). This perhaps reflects the importance of sharing photos and content between friends on these services.
Only one social media site, video sharing website YouTube, attracts more boys (12-15), who are nearly twice as likely as girls of the same age to use this site (29 per cent versus 15 per cent).
Parents actively managing online risks for children
Nine in ten parents whose children go online are taking steps to help their children manage risks when using the Internet.
Popular methods include parents supervising their children online (84 per cent), talking to children about managing online risks (78 per cent) and having rules in place about use and access of the internet (82 per cent).
Over half of parents whose children go online use some kind of technical tool to manage online risks (54 per cent). These tools include things like filters provided by Internet companies, using PIN/passwords and parental control and virus protection software.
The majority of parents feel they know enough to help their child manage online risks (77 per cent), but nearly half of parents whose child goes online (43 per cent) feel their children know more about the internet than they do. This rises to nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of parents feeling less knowledgeable than their children aged 12-15.