53% of UK kids own phones by age seven

As phone use increases, linear is on the decline, with fewer kids watching TV year over year according to new data from Childwise.
January 30, 2020

The latest study from independent market researcher Childwise found that cell phones reign supreme for kids in the UK. According to the 2020 Childwise Monitor Report, 53% of children are phone owners by the age of seven and the past year saw a significant increase in the number of five- to 10-year-olds with their own phone.

The study found 71% of kids use their phones to access the internet, both from their rooms (80%) and when they are outside of the home (45%). More than half of children surveyed said they sleep with their phone next to their bed and wouldn’t know what to do without their mobile device.

In fact, phone ownership is back to levels last seen in 2012, while tablet usage took a downturn in the last year. Virtual assistants are also seeing significant growth, with the number of households owning a virtual assistant growing to 39% (a 13% increase compared to the year before).

Kids are spending more time online overall (3.4 hours per day, up from 3.3 hours last year), with boys found to be heavier internet users than girls. A quarter of children spend between four and six hours online a day (26%, up from 24% last year).

YouTube remained kids’ favorite website/app, with 61% of children using the platform daily. A quarter of children who use YouTube named a gaming channel as their favorite, and the majority of kids can also name a favorite YouTuber. Top personalities on the platform include PewDiePie, DanTDM, LazarBeam and Sidemen.

Snapchat and Instagram rounded out the top three favorite websites/apps, with TikTok taking fourth place. TikTok tripled in popularity over the past year, with one in 10 children naming the app as their favorite.

At the same time kids’ focus on their phones is increasing, their time spent watching television is declining. More than half (56%) of children surveyed said they had watched a children’s television channel in the last week, down from 60% the year before. In 2015, 76% of children reported having watched a kids channel in the last week.

The study found younger kids are more likely to watch children’s channels, with 83% of kids ages seven to 10 watching in the past week. Viewing declined for the older set (down 5% from 42% last year) and girls (60%) were more likely to have watched a children’s channel in the past week than boys (53%).

Cartoon Network (17%) and CBBC (17%) were the most-watched children’s channels, followed by Nickelodeon (14%), CITV (13%), Disney Channel (13%) and POP (13%). Nearly all (98%) of children ages seven to 16 use at least one on-demand service to watch content, with YouTube (86%) and Netflix (67%) taking the top two spots. The next most popular service was BBC iPlayer (27%).

The most popular title for boys was Pokémon (5%), while girls named Friends (4%) and Stranger Things (4%) as their favorite shows. Cartoons (17%) were chosen as the most popular program type, followed by content from on-demand providers like Netflix and YouTube (9%), other children’s programs (7%), adult sitcoms (7%) and dramas (5%).

The 2020 Childwise Monitor Report surveyed 2,167 children ages five to 16 across UK. The annual report examines media consumption, purchasing habits and social behavior.

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