New research shows that only 18% of children aged 12 to 15 would miss TV over all else.
Young British teenagers would be less worried at being deprived of television than losing access to the internet or their mobile phones, as attachment to the medium slides among the young, according to new research from Ofcom.
Yet Britain’s youngsters also watch more TV than at any time in the past five years, the survey found – though a growing amount comes through using online catchup services such as the BBC’s iPlayer. On average, they watch 17 hours 37 minutes per week, up from 15 hours 37 minutes in 2007.
Internet use has also become pervasive, with 95% of 12- to 15-year-olds having internet access at home through a computer. But the research by the communications watchdog also points to a “digital divide”, in which only 80% of children in lower socioeconomic groups have access to the internet at home, compared to 98% in the richest ones.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: “The almost universal use of the internet at home by 12 to 15s – both for their education as well as their entertainment – is a positive step forward.”
The annual survey was carried out in spring with 1,717 in-home interviews, and focused on attitudes to communications technology by parents and children. It found that 28% of children aged 12 to 15 said they would most miss their mobile, and 25% would most miss the internet if deprived of them – compared to only 18% citing television. A year ago mobile was the most desired, while TV was level-pegging with the internet at 24%.
Attachment to TV seems to be sliding across all age groups, having dropped steadily among even the 5- to 7-year-olds, from 64% citing it as what they would miss the most in 2007, to just 48% now. Among eight- to 11-year-olds, the figure has fallen in that period from 51% to 39%, and among 12- to 15-year-olds from 28% to 18%. Yet catchup services such as the BBC iPlayer and 4OD are proving popular: just over a quarter of children aged 5 to 15 have used them, rising to nearly a third for those aged 12 to 15.
Radio listening is also in decline, with around half of those aged 12 to 15 not listening to any sort of radio, according to the survey results.
Parents are increasingly taking more care of their childrens’ online usage, with the living room being the most common location for internet use, although a third of 12- to 15-year-olds have internet access in their bedrooms. The majority of those aged 5 to 11 use the internet with an adult in the room, but lone usage increases with age: half of those aged 12 to 15 used the internet alone. However, that figure has fallen since last year.
“The research also shows that parents and children are increasingly aware of how to be safe when using the internet,” said Ofcom’s Richards. “But risks do remain. Better understanding – amongst parents as well as their children – is the key to helping people to manage content and communications, enabling them to enjoy the benefits of media use while protecting themselves from the potential risks.”
Smartphone usage is also growing: around half of all children aged up to 15 have their own mobile phone, and the proportion with a smartphone such as an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone is growing fast, having risen from 36% a year ago to 46% now. The use of mobile phones generally is also growing strongly among children aged 8 to 11, rising from 55% a year ago to 61% now.
Games console popularity seems to have hit a plateau, at between 81% and 92% depending on age, though the figures are almost unchanged from a year ago.