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Report: UK kids’ mobile ownership, usage growing

January 30, 2020

Most UK children are now phone owners by the age of seven, with a big increase this year in the number of 5-10-year-olds who own their own mobile, according to the new 2020 CHILDWISE Monitor Report.

More kids of all ages are using their phones to access the Internet, increasingly from their own room or when they are out and about . More than half admit to ‘always sleeping with their mobile next to the bed’ – and say they wouldn’t know what to do if they lost their device.

“Mobile phones have won over tablet computers and now dominate children’s lives,” notes Simon Leggett, research director at CHILDWISE. “This year 47 per cent of 5 to 10-year olds now have a mobile, up from 38 per cent last year.”

“However, it can be tough to parent your young child’s use of technology when the mobile phone is such a private and personal technology.”

“The moment a child owns a mobile phone, it can be a challenge to monitor what your child is accessing online because it’s such a private technology that most keep, literally, close to their chest.”

The 2020 CHILDWISE Monitor is a comprehensive annual report looking at five to 16-year-olds’ media consumption, purchasing and social habits as well as key behaviour.

The amount of time that children spend online continues to increase overall, with boys remaining heavier Internet users than girls. Children now say they spend 3.4 hours a day online, rising slightly from 3.3 last year.

The number of 5-16-year-olds with their own mobile phone has increased this year , following several years of little change. More than two out of three children now have their own handset.

“This year, young children have increasing access to mobile phones and they are using them for longer periods of time. With the majority of children now phone owners by age seven, average daily usage among 7-10 year olds has gone up by almost an hour a day,” says Leggett.

Mobile ownership has faced strong competition from tablet computers over the last few years. However, the tide appears to be turning, with phone ownership back to levels last seen in 2012 and tablet usage taking a downturn.

Children’s increased use of their mobile to go online also has implications for what they choose to watch. “It’s a new era for content and TV and a completely new way of doing things,” advises Leggett. “Children are online all the time, checking in on their mobiles while out and about. Content is likely to get shorter and shorter to fit with this way of viewing.”

The report also looks at the different channels that children watch, the different services they use to watch on demand content, their favourite programmes and what types of content are preferred across the most popular on-demand services.

Overall, this year sees a third of the listed channels dropping back (half last year), as other media and devices compete for children’s attention.

However, this year, twelve of the top 25 channels experience an increase in viewership, more than the number of channels that rose last year when nine increased. Of those rising, six of them have increased by only 1 per cent, four of them have increased between 2-3 per cent points, two of them have risen by 5 per cent and one is new to the list this year. A further four hold steady, whilst the remaining nine are in decline.

Once again, ITV remains the top channel amongst 7-16 year olds (holding this position since 2013). Two in five (39 per cent) watched in the last week, as last year.

Findings of the report also include:

  • 71 per cent access the Internet via mobile phone.
  • One in four children spend four to six hours online a day, up to 26 per cent from 24 per cent last year.
  • The number of households owning a virtual assistant has increased significantly this year, with more than one in three households now owning one (39 per cent up from 26 per cent last year)
  • The website/app TikTok has tripled in popularity this year – with one in ten naming it as their favourite.
  • YouTube continues to be children’s favourite website/app despite decreasing slightly since last year. This is followed by Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Netflix. 61 per cent of kids use YouTube everyday and their favourite YouTubers are PewDiePie followed by DanTDM, LazarBeam and Sidemen.
  • Stranger Things is kids’ top content on Netflix, followed by Friends, Riverdale, Top Boy and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • Top favourite TV programmes are Stranger Things, then YouTube, Netflix, SpongeBob, Friends, Pokemon and The Simpsons.
  • Top channels viewed in the last week are ITV, Sky Sports, BBC One, Channel 4, ITV2, Cartoon Network, CBBC.
  • Children’s average weekly income (from pocket money and handouts) is £11.50. Children’s total spending power in the UK is £7,790 million per year.
  • All kids are doing less sport outside and inside school this year.
  • Kids report that their stress levels are up this year, but they are less likely to compare themselves to celebrities.
  • More children are ‘very concerned’ about the environment.




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