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Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2018

This report (and the accompanying annexes) examines children’s media literacy. Ofcom’s definition of media literacy is the ability to use, understand and create media and communications in a variety of contexts. The report is a reference for industry, stakeholders and the general public.

The Communications Act 2003 placed a responsibility on Ofcom to promote, and to carry out research in, media literacy. This report on children and parents contributes to Ofcom’s fulfilment of this duty.

Drawing largely on our quantitative Children and Parents’ Media Literacy Tracker, the report provides detailed evidence on media use, attitudes and understanding among children and young people aged 5-15, as well as detailed information about media access and use by young children aged 3-4. The report also includes findings relating to parents’ views about their children’s media use, and the ways that parents seek – or decide not – to monitor or limit use of different types of media.

This report also draws on several other research sources, detailed in the annex, to provide an overarching narrative on children’s media experience in 2018.

Key findings

  • TV sets and tablets dominate device use, but time spent watching TV on a TV set (broadcast or on demand) is decreasing
  • The viewing landscape is complex, with half of 5-15s watching OTT television services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV
  • YouTube is becoming the viewing platform of choice, with rising popularity particularly among 8-11s. Within this, vloggers are an increasingly important source of content and creativity
  • Online gaming is increasingly popular; three-quarters of 5-15s who play games do so online
  • Social media can bring a combination of social pressures and positive influences
  • TV and social media are important sources of news, but many have concerns over the accuracy and trustworthiness of news on social media
  • A majority of online 12-15s think critically about websites they visit, but only a third correctly understand search engine advertising
  • Children are still being exposed to unwanted experiences online, but almost all recall being taught how to use the internet safely
  • There has been an increase in parents of 12-15s and of 12-15s themselves saying that controlling screen time has become harder; however most 12-15s consider they have a struck a good balance between this and doing other things
  • Parental concerns about the internet are rising, although parents are, in some areas, becoming less likely to moderate their child’s activities