Television vs digital: the battle for children's (and mums') attention

Brian Carruthers

The generation of children growing up today are often referred to as digital natives but television continues to play a major role in their lives. That much was evident from a variety of research presented at the MRS Kids and Youth Research Conference held in London in January 2016. There's no doubt, however, that their relationship with the medium is changing.

"Live broadcast TV is very important," stated Emily Keaney, senior research manager, content, consumer and external affairs at UK regulator Ofcom, "but the way children are watching it and thinking about it is changing." And what they watch on live TV may not be what they most recall. "What's most memorable for children tends to be what they watch on demand and on YouTube," she added.

Watch with mother

That rather depends, however, on how old the children are. For the very youngest, shared live television viewing with a parent is what's important, according to Karen Pearce, advertiser partnership controller at Sky Media, the satellite broadcaster. She explained that the decision to research the screen time of "pre-schoolers" – or children aged between one and four – had been driven by the lack of existing knowledge about this demographic, as they aren't covered by existing BARB data, and understanding their behaviour can feed into choices around content and advertising.