Online overtakes TV as kids’ top pastime

The internet has overtaken television as the top media pastime for the UK’s children.

Ofcom Report 2016
Ofcom’s report on Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes, published recently, reveals that children’s internet use has reached record highs, with youngsters aged 5-15 spending around 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching a TV set for the first time.



Even pre-schoolers, aged 3-4, are spending eight hours and 18 minutes a week online, up an hour and a half from six hours 48 minutes in the last year.

According to Ofcom’s data, children aged 5-15 have increased their weekly online time by an hour and 18 minutes in the last year to 15 hours.

In contrast, children are spending less time watching a TV set, with their weekly viewing dropping from 14 hours 48 minutes in 2015 to 13 hours 36 minutes in the last year.

YouTube is one of the most popular online destinations for children to watch content, with around three quarters (73%) of those aged 5-15 using the video site. It is also a hit with pre-schoolers with 37% regularly watching YouTube videos, who typically pick ‘TV content’ such as cartoons and mini-movies.

And older children are beginning to show a preference for YouTube with four in ten 8-11s and 12-15s saying they prefer watching YouTube than the TV set.

Despite this, Ofcom’s research shows that TV still plays an important role in children’s lives with nine in 10 still watching, generally every day, and the largest number of children watching at peak family viewing time, 6 – 9pm.

Digital childhood
Digital devices are more widespread among children than ever, including the very young. Today’s research finds that a third (34%) of pre-schoolers (aged 3-4) own their own media device – such as a tablet or games console.

Pre-schoolers typically enjoy digital entertainment on a tablet, with more than half (55%) using one, and 16% owning their own tablet – up from just 3% in 2013.

As children reach pre-to-early teenage years, they prefer smartphones to tablets – with the proportion of children owning one up from 35% to 41% in the last year. This means one in three tweens (8-11s), and eight in 10 older children (12-15s) now have their own smartphone.

As children spend more of their time online, their awareness of advertising and ‘vlogger’ endorsements has also increased with more than half of internet users aged 12-15 (55%) now aware that online advertising can be personalised - up 10 percentage points in the last year. And, 12-15s awareness of product endorsement from vloggers has also increased by 10 percentage points to 57% in 2016.

But, many children still need help to identify advertising on search engine Google with only a minority of 8-11s (24%) and 12-15s (38%) correctly recognising sponsored links.

Book at bedtime
Despite the importance of digital devices in children’s lives, Ofcom’s Digital Day research, also published recently, shows that reading is the third most popular activity with primary school aged children (62%) beating newer activities such as watching online video clips (47%), instant messaging (10%) and watching music videos (11%)5.

Staying safe online
More than nine in ten children aged 8-15 have had conversations with parents or teachers about being safe online, and would tell someone if they saw something they found worrying or nasty.

Parents of older children are most likely to be having these types of conversations with their children, with 92% of parents of 12-15s saying they have spoken to their child about online safety, an increase of six percentage points since 2015.

Nearly all parents (96%) of 5-15s manage their children’s internet use in some way – through technical tools, talking to or supervising their child, or setting rules about access to the internet and online behaviour. Two in five parents use all four approaches.

And, parents of children aged 5-15s are more likely to use network level filters in 2016 - up five percentage points to 31%7.

On the most part, families are in agreement that their child has a good balance between screen time and doing other activities. Most children aged 12-15 (64%), and parents of children of the same age (65%), believe this balance is about right.

Jane Rumble, Ofcom Director of Market Intelligence said: “Children’s lives are increasingly digital, with tablets and smartphones commanding more attention than ever. Even so, families are finding time for more traditional activities, such as watching TV together or reading a bedtime story.”

Click here to download the full Children and Parents: media use and attitudes report

Ofcom Online versus TV

Written by E-safety Support on November 24, 2016 10:35

Three quarters of 10-12 Year-olds have underage social media accounts

Latest report from BBC Newsround reports 3/4 of children aged 10-12 have a social media profile


ChatFOSS Screen GrabPut simply 75% of children are breaking legal terms and conditions, a shockingly high number. As we know once the 50% mark is reached it is very difficult for parents not to bow to peer pressure as they do not want their children to miss out or be labelled as “uncool”. The problem is self perpetuating resulting in such high levels of young children using age inappropriate apps. Why is it that in the online world such terms and conditions are just blithely ignored?

The online and offline world seem to operate with very different sets of instructions. A recent straw poll saw 100% of year 5 and 6 children say they had watched or played a game with a rating of 18. When posed the same question with regards to films only 3 hands went up. Despite all the good work that goes on with organisations such as NSPCC, PEGI, SwGfL to name but a few the message is clearly not getting through to parents or children. How do educational professionals deal with this, as the saying goes “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. E-safety seminars within schools are notorious for low attendance, with parents either deliberately or naively turning a blind eye.

In the Ofcom report on Children’s media use parents cited the main reason they did not, for example use safe search, was because they trusted their children. Trust is not enough, children must be protected. There is a difference between “trust” and “protection”. We need to educate parents that even if you “trust” your child you still need to protect them. Children wear cycling helmets – this is not because we don’t “trust” them to fall off their bikes – it is because we want to protect them.

For the first time, children are now spending more time on the Internet than watching TV and are accessing content unsupervised at an increasingly younger age, so rather than turning a blind eye, parents should be actively discussing Internet use with their children. If parents are familiar with the online playground their children are in, they will at least have some notion of the potential risks. And once they do know where their children are hanging out, they then have the opportunity to suggest safer alternatives such as ChatFOSS. Afterall, we don’t want to prevent young people from learning how to use social media properly as it is integral to modern life. By showing them safer alternatives which teach them the principles without the risks, it’s like teaching them to ride a bike with stabilisers.

Happily, the majority of underage usage of apps such as Instagram, twitter and facebook is entirely innocent, however that does not mean such usage does not bring with it risks. The reported increase in mental health issues that is being attributed to social media seems to have no impact on parental decisions. Can the recent Newsround report stating that 37% of children who use social media underage are friends with someone they have never met encourage parents to be more involved in e-safety? I hope so.



We would like to thank our latest guest blogger, Alicia Coad, for her thoughts on this topic. To find out more about Alicia and ChatFOSS, click here.

Written by Alicia Coad on March 03, 2016 10:09

Teaching e-safety in primary schools

How can e-safety be taught more imaginatively to engage but not startle children?

Teaching e-safety in primary schools is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand there is evidence that primary aged girls in particular and some boys, are becoming fearful of the Internet and on the other hand we know that just under two thirds of 10-11 year olds always follow the e-safety advice they have been taught. Many girls only do so because they are scared ‘something bad will happen to me’. The remainder follow the advice intermittently or never.

At a recent parents’ evening a mother passed me a note which read ‘My daughter is too scared to have a mobile phone.’ I decided to look again at the most recent responses of primary school girls to our annual Cybersurvey. There it was again, so many were saying how scared they were. Have they been frightened by scary stories about the dangers of the Internet? The boys on the other hand occasionally mentioned fear, but strongly emphasised problem solving skills and their wish for autonomy. Again and again they included the word’ myself’ in their answers. ‘I found out for myself’ or ‘I sort out problems myself’ or they said they followed the e-safety advice ‘because I want to play and watch things.’

Thinking about what we want for our young people and their online futures, I knew it was not obedience because of fear, or a lackadaisical approach to following e-safety advice displayed by those who said they ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ follow the advice. By the age of 14 those who are not carefully following e-safety advice constitute almost three quarters of all students! Instead I wanted that burgeoning wish for autonomy and digital competence to be encouraged.

This has led to soul searching and workshops, surveys and discussions with teachers, students and parents. How can e-safety be taught more imaginatively to engage but not startle children and how can we get stickiness so that they do not drift away from adherence in the teen years when they need it most? We know that cyberbullying and high risk behaviours peak in the mid-teens.

Furthermore our survey data collected over seven years found that children and young people in vulnerable groups felt their e-safety education was not working for them. They were more likely to take multiple risks online, share explicit images (yes a few even at age 11) and to visit inappropriate sites and those encouraging self-harm, anorexia or gambling. Though small, this worrying group represent the children most in need of support.

The next step was to try to create activities that could be adaptable and used to engage children, excite them, and encourage their wish to take charge of their online lives. When they were asked for their ideas, a fascinating range of suggestions were offered. We could use fiction, drama, art, spot the difference games, debates, quizzes and digi-dilemmas to bring home the messages.

Clearly not all types of activity will suit every child, but getting our messages right and using a wide range of delivery styles we could have a better chance of success. Then there is the structure of the teaching. Going back to good teaching methods with regular re-caps and building step by step on what was learned before, breaking it down into chunks, giving practical demonstrations – all build up knowledge gradually in an age appropriate way. Don’t have a guest in for a day to give sessions on e-safety and then disappear. Think of it like maths! Don’t move on until they fully understand the first step.

One suggestion in my book is to colour code the messages so that any advice on ‘safe searching’ for example is always delivered in the same colour and wall displays or handouts reflect this. Any tools in your armoury for teaching should be harnessed to delivering e-safety. It could arguably be the most important skill the children will take forward into their future lives. Above all it needs to be a partnership with children and young people as we explore the internet and new devices, apps and software together. It cannot work if we simply hand down a set of rigid rules even though that is tempting because it appears to be easier.

  • Use colour to separate the messages for wall displays (Safe search, safe talk, safe posting each take a colour and always remain linked to that colour etc.)
  • Break the information into short digestible chunks
  • Re-cap or test with a quiz or a kinetic activity before moving on
  • Include practical demonstrations with older children helping younger ones
  • Avoid using scare tactics,
  • Emphasise how they can learn to problem-solve or report to an adult, they can take charge of their online lives
  • Use characters and stories adapted from favourite fiction or movies to illustrate situations for pupils to problem-solve. How did the wolf know when Red Riding Hood was going to be at her gran’s? He cracked her password which was weak (RRHood).
  • If you would like to share your tips on engaging pupils on this difficult topic, please use the comments section below

    Written by Adrienne Katz on June 17, 2015 11:06


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