LONDON: Tablets are rapidly becoming a must-have device for British children as their use of these devices has tripled in the past year, while fewer now have products such as TVs, radios and games players in their bedrooms.

The findings emerged in a new report from Ofcom, the regulator for the communications industries, entitled Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report. This showed that, in addition to the tripling of tablet use among 5-15 year olds from 14% to 42%, over one quarter (28%) of 3-4 year olds also used a tablet at home.

Tablet ownership levels among children, as opposed to usage levels, were also high, with 18% of 8-11 year olds possessing one and 26% of 12-15 year olds.

The rise of the tablet appeared closely linked to playing games, with 23% of 5-15 year olds using it for this purpose, up from 7% in 2012. At the same, this age group saw a drop in the proportion with a games console or player in their bedroom, from 56% to 47%.

More children were also using tablets to go online, with 23% doing so in 2013, compared to just 9% the previous year. Among 8-11 year olds, schoolwork/homework was the most commonly mentioned internet activity carried out at least weekly (75%), followed by games (54%) and information (45%).

Ofcom also noted that ownership of mobile phones by younger children had declined while older children were opting for smartphones. It suggested that the multi-functionality of tablets met younger children's entertainment needs, particularly as regards watching audio-visual content and playing games.

Older children, however, preferred to use smartphones as a means of peer communication, with these proving the most popular device for accessing social networking sites. Some 41% with an active profile mostly used one to visit their preferred site.

Common online activities for this age group included schoolwork/ homework (84%), information (79%), social networking and watching audio-visual content (both 68%). Games (54%) and music (53%) were also popular.

Almost half of older children (48%) indicated some understanding of the concept of online personalised advertising but a significant proportion (42%) remained unaware that websites could use their information this way. Over half (53%) were unsure or indifferent to the practice, while 21% thought it was a bad thing (down from 33% in 2012).

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff