UK kids’ online time to eclipse traditional TV: Study

A new report from UK-based Childwise outlines just how much kids' media consumption habits have changed over the past 20 years - and what the future holds. For instance, UK kids' time spent online is set to overtake time spent watching linear TV in the next two years.
March 27, 2015

It’s a given that kids are logging more time on their tablets and smartphones than ever, but a new report from UK-based firm Childwise outlines just how much kids’ consumption habits have changed over the past 20 years—and what the future might hold.

Increasingly, the wealth of content available online and the popularity of YouTube are drawing kids and tweens to the internet over linear TV.

This theme emerges from Childwise’s first 20-year report, Connected Kids. The report includes data spanning the last two decades of UK children’s media and technology use, which is used to predict future trends.

Perhaps its most notable finding is that within the next two years, watching content via traditional TV  will no longer be a dominant childhood pastime, as kids are more likely to be spending that time online. Kids are increasingly expecting to choose the content with which they engage, so VOD services like Netflix will increasingly become the norm .

Stretching back to 1995, Childwise found that on average, eight-year-old boys watched 2.7 hours of TV per day. Whereas in 2015, screen time had expanded to include new platforms and jumped to 5.5 hours (2.3 hours watching TV, 1.3 hours on internet, 1.5 hours on console, 0.4 hours on mobile).

For eight-year-old girls, screen time in 1995 also consisted of 2.7 hours spent watching TV daily. Meanwhile this year, the same age group logged 3.8 hours of screen time (2.1 hours watching TV, 0.8 hours on internet, 0.6 hours on console, 0.3 hours on mobile).

With stats like this, the report predicts future generations will be more likely to access content like TV shows via tablet or phablet, rather than a traditional TV set, laptop or PC.

Thanks to the popularity of the tablet with this demo, the device is likely to reach similar ownership levels as smartphones, and ownership of laptops and PCs is predicted to fall.

As more kids own these portable devices (which can be difficult for parents to regulate), protecting kids from inappropriate content online will be a continuing issue going forward.

In addition, the report found that traditional social networks like Facebook will continue to decline in popularity, while photo and video-sharing sites like YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat gain traction with young people.

On the mobile phone front, the study suggests these devices will become a hub, used to coordinate other tech devices. For example, kids will use their phones to interact with the television, either indirectly through second-screen viewing or as a controller.

Looking at the next five years, Childwise predicts there will be a convergence of technology currently in use. Some children may choose phablets instead of the current combo of phone and tablet/laptop. Televisions are likely to be increasingly connected to the internet, allowing for streaming of content from portable devices to the big screen.

Over the next 10 years, these digital natives are likely to find household appliances that cannot be controlled by smartphone, or some kind of online dashboard, outdated and/or increasingly rare. The report also suggests that wearable technology will have progressed significantly by this point.

More information on the report is available here. The Connected Kids report profiles the main technologies of the 20-year period, including the dominance of TV in the 1990s, the growth of the internet and the widespread adoption of mobile phones.

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