Ofcom UK Children's Literacy Update – April 2011

24 May 2011 UK SIC

A younger and more mobile use of the Internet

Ofcom are the Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries and undertake regular research including annual assessments of children’s (5 – 15) media literacy in the UK.  The most recent report was published in April 2011

The report makes many observations, but most notably around the growth in the use of mobile and gaming devices to access the internet.  The report also concludes a continued rise in hours spent online as well as the use of social networking sites.

It is no real surprised that children and young people are increasingly using their mobile phones and gaming devices such as consoles to access the online space, however this research provides the data to support this revolution.  The use of a games console to access the internet rose from 18% of 12 – 15 year olds in 2009 to 23%.  The rise of accessing the internet via a mobile phone rose dramatically quicker from 14% in 2009 to 23% for the same age group.  As web enabled devices become more common place (35% of 12 – 15 year olds have a ‘smartphone’ and 94% of 8 – 11 year olds have a gaming device), coupled with improving online access, clearly children and young people are finding it easier and preferable to access the internet from these devices. 

The research looked at the time children and young people spent online and estimated that 5 – 7 year olds spend 5.2 hours online in a typical week, compared to 8.4 hours for 8 – 11 year olds and 15.6 hours for 12 – 15 year olds. 

Continuing the trend, the report confirms that social networking activity continues to rise, especially now for younger children.  There has been an increase in 5 – 7 year olds use of social networking, with weekly use increasing from 7% in 2009 to 23% in 2010 (this relates to them visiting websites such as Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters rather than mainstream social networking sites). One third (34%) of 8 – 12 year olds have a profile on sites that require users to register as being 13 or over, up from 25% in 2009.

The report also considered the experience and views of parents and concluded that 48% of parents think their child knows more than them about the internet.  For parents of 12 – 15 year olds, this rose to 70%.

The research clearly demonstrates the continued rise of internet access but illustrates the greater use amongst the very youngest children and also a much more personal and active engagement with the technology.  The UK safer Internet Centre and its partners already have resources and programmes that help in all these cases, such as Childnet’s Know it all series (www.childnet.com/kia), as well as information on gaming and social networking /safer-internet-day/advice-on-gaming.

The report contains a wealth of information, commentary and conclusions and can be found at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/media-literacy/medlitpub/medlitpubrss/ukchildrensml11/.  

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