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Children's internet use at record high

News, 18 November 2016

LONDON: Children in the UK now spend more time online than they do watching TV, while YouTube has become one of their most popular online destinations for content, according to a new official report.

UK media regulator Ofcom released these findings in its "Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes" report, which showed children aged 5-15 have increased their weekly online time by 1 hour and 18 minutes in the last year to 15 hours.

And even pre-school children aged 3-4 now spend an average of 8 hours and 18 minutes a week online, up by 90 minutes since last year, the study found.

As children's internet use hits an all-time high, Ofcom also revealed that the time they spend watching a TV set has dropped from 14 hours 48 minutes in 2015 to 13 hours and 36 minutes over the last year.

The study also confirmed the popularity of YouTube among British children, revealing that around three-quarters (73%) of youngsters aged 5-15 use the video site.

In addition, 37% of pre-schoolers regularly watch YouTube videos, typically for TV-style cartoons and mini-movies.

British children also appear to have become sophisticated when it comes to their understanding of advertising and endorsements from "vloggers".

According to Ofcom, more than half (55%) of internet users aged 12-15 are now aware that online advertising can be personalised, up 10 percentage points since last year, and this age group's awareness of product endorsement from vloggers has also risen by 10 percentage points to 57%.

That said, many children still need help to identify advertising on Google because only a quarter (24%) of 8-11s and 38% of 12-15s correctly recognise sponsored links.

Meanwhile, the report found that digital devices are more widespread among children than ever. The proportion of children owning a smartphone rose from 35% to 41% in the last year, which includes 8-in-10 of older children aged 12-15.

The uptake of media devices also extends to pre-schoolers aged 3-4, a third (34%) of whom now own one, such as a tablet or games console.

More than half (55%) of pre-schoolers typically enjoy entertainment on a tablet, the research found, while 16% own their own tablet – up from just 3% in 2013.

"Children's lives are increasingly digital, with tablets and smartphones commanding more attention than ever," said Jane Rumble, Ofcom's Director of Market Intelligence.

"Even so, families are finding time for more traditional activities, such as watching TV together or reading a bedtime story," she added, in reference to a separate Ofcom study that showed reading is the third most popular activity among primary school aged children.

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff