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UK children prefer online to TV

News, 27 January 2016

NORWICH: For the first time, children in the UK now spend more time online than they do watching TV, according to a new report that describes this finding as a landmark change.

In its latest annual poll of the viewing habits of more than 2,000 five- to 16-year-olds, research agency Childwise found young people spend three hours a day using the internet, compared with just 2.1 hours watching TV.

The trend is particularly pronounced among 15- to 16-year-olds, with less than a quarter of these teenagers opting to watch live broadcast TV instead of catch-up services or YouTube, the BBC reported.

YouTube has taken centre stage in children's lives, the report said, after finding that nearly half of all young people access the video-sharing site every day.

The majority of children use YouTube to watch videos, listen to music and access gaming content, but vlogs and "how to" videos are also popular. Children particularly enjoy "funny content", the report found.

Netflix is another very popular channel for British youngsters, with half of them claiming to have used the streaming service, ahead of ITV1 (47%) and BBC1 (46%).


Lindsey Cley, CEO of Thinkbox, was sceptical of these self-reported figures, however, and pointed out that only around 20% of UK households subscribe to Netflix.

If children are using these services, it's at least partly down to a surge in tablet ownership, which has grown 50% over the past year alone.

Three-quarters (67%) of young people now have a tablet device, the report confirmed, and tablets are now used by them more than laptops or desktop PCs.

"Growing access to the internet at any time and in any place, and a blurring of television content across channels and devices, brings a landmark change in behaviour this year," said Simon Leggett, research director at Childwise.

"Children are now seeking out the content of their choice. They still find traditional TV programmes engaging but are increasingly watching them online and on-demand or binge watching box sets."


* This story has been updated to take account of industry reaction to the findings

Data sourced from BBC; additional content by Warc staff