UK children's media literacy
The report is designed to give an accessible overview of media literacy among children and young people aged 5-15 and their parents/carers, and is based on two waves of research, conducted in spring and autumn 2010. Where possible, within the sample of children aged 5-15 and their parents, demographic analysis is conducted by age (of the child interviewed), by gender and by household socio-economic group.
Media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make full use of the opportunities presented both by traditional and by new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications, and protect themselves and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.
The purpose of this report is to support people working in this area to develop and promote media literacy among these groups.
Take-up of media
- There has been growth in the use of alternative devices to access the internet - use of a games console/player in this way rose from 18% of 12-15s in 2009 to 23% of 12-15s in 2010. Use of a mobile to access the internet rose from 14% to 23% for 12-15s.
- Smartphone ownership in 2010 comprised 3% of 5-7s, 13% of 8-11s, and around one third - 35% - of 12-15s.
- Home internet use stands at 67% for 5-7s, 82% for 8-11s and 90% for 12-15s. Around one in ten 5-7s (10%) and 8-11s (9%) use the internet only at school, compared to 4% of 12-15s. One in twelve (8%) of all 5-15s do not use the internet at all, in any location, although this varies considerably by age.
- Levels of solitary use of the internet are relatively high for older children, with over half 56% - of 12-15s saying they mostly use the internet alone - although this does not represent a change since 2009. Two in five (41%) of parents of this age group say that their child has access to the internet in their bedroom, a rise from 31% in 2009.
- Most children in each of the three age groups use any type of gaming device, accounting for eight in ten 5-7s (82%), nine in ten 8-11s (94%) and nine in ten 12-15s (91%). 12% of 12-15s who ever play games say they mostly play with other people over the internet, and this rises to 19% for boys in this age group who ever play games. This figure has not changed from 2009.
- Children aged 5-15 from AB households are more likely to use the internet at home (89% v. 69% for children from DE households).
- Children aged 515 with a mobile phone from DE households are twice as likely as those from AB households to have one by the age of 8 (32% v 16%), although overall, children aged 5-15 in AB and DE households are equally likely to have a mobile phone (50%).
- Children from DE households are now as likely to have digital TV at home as all 5-15s, as access for this group has increased from 88% in 2009 to 94% in 2010.
- TV remains the preferred medium for 5-7s (52%), and 8-11s (45%), although there has been an increase among 8-11s saying they would most-miss the internet (15% in 2010 v. 10% in 2009). Children aged 12-15 are now as likely to miss the internet (24%) and mobiles (26%) as they are to miss TV (24%). The proportion who say TV is their preferred medium has fallen from 32% in 2009.
Use of media
- Hours spent online at home vary by the age of the child. Children aged 5-7 use the internet for an estimated 5.2 hours in a typical week, compared to 8.4 hours for 8-11s and 15.6 hours for 12-15s. Hours have risen since 2009 for 5-7s and 12-15s. This compares with an estimated 14.8 hours watching TV per week for 5-7s, 16.4 hours per week for 8-11s, and 17.2 hours per week for 12-15s.
- Social networking activity continues to increase, especially for younger age-groups who use the internet at home. There has been an increase in 5-7s use of social networking weekly use has increased from 7% in 2009 to 23% in 2010 although this relates to them visiting virtual worlds like Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters rather than mainstream social networking sites. When parents were asked specifically whether or not their online 5-7 year old had an active social networking profile, 5% said they had. One third (34%) of 8-12s have a profile on sites that require users to register as being 13 or over, up from 25% in 2009. Looking specifically at 10-12 year old internet users, 47% have such a profile, a rise from 35% in 2009.
- There has been no change since 2009 in terms of watching audio-visual content online - around one in five (19%) 8-11s who use the internet at home has watched / downloaded TV programmes or films (in full or in part). Two in five 12-15s (38%) have watched/ downloaded TV programmes (in full or in part). Half of all children aged 8-15 who use the internet at home visit sites like YouTube, with the likelihood of visiting increasing with the age of the child, accounting for just over one third of 8-11s (37%) and two thirds of 12-15s (66%).
- Compared to 2009, 12-15s now estimate they make fewer calls per week on their mobile phone (20 vs. 25 calls) with no change for 8-11s, while the estimated volume of text messages sent per week has remained at similar levels for both 8-11s (27 vs. 22 in 2009) and 12-15s (113 vs. 104 in 2009).
Knowledge and understanding of media among 8-15s
- Two thirds of 8-11s (67%) who use the internet at home say they only visit websites theyve been to before. Over half of 12-15s (57%) say this.
- 44% of 12-15s who ever use search engines make some type of critical judgement about search engine results, thinking that some of the sites returned will be truthful while others may not be. 31% believe that if a search engine lists information then it must be truthful and 15% dont consider the veracity of results but just visit the sites they like the look of. These proportions have not changed since 2009, suggesting that nearly half of 12-15s who use search engine websites are not critically aware of the provenance of its content.
- Around three in five 12-15s (61%) who use the internet at home say they would make some kind of checks when visiting a website they hadnt been to before. Nearly one quarter (23%) of 12-15s who use the internet say they do not make any of these checks. These proportions have not changed since 2009.
- There is a clear hierarchy of the types of information children aged 12-15 who use the internet at home or elsewhere would be happy to put online. The majority of 12-15s would be happy to post photos from being out with their friends (58%) or from their holiday (54%) while around half would be happy to post information about what they are doing (51%) or how they are feeling (46%). Children would be much less willing to give out their contact details such as their email address (22%), their mobile phone number (8%) or their home address details (6%).
- 85% of 8-11s and 87% of 12-15s with a social networking profile say that it can only be seen by friends. For 12-15s this represents a rise since 2009. However, in terms of who they communicate with via their profile, 22% of 8-11s and nearly one third (32%) of 12-15s say they either speak to friends of friends or people they dont know, in other words that they are potentially in contact with people not directly known to them.
Parents and childrens attitudes and concerns
- There are high levels of agreement and confidence from parents in terms of their attitudes towards trusting their child, the benefits of the internet, and whether their child has been taught about online safety at school. However, 48% of parents think their child knows more than them about the internet, rising to 70% of parents of 12-15s.
- Three in ten parents of 5-15s (30%) who use the internet at home are very or fairly concerned that their child may be giving out personal details to inappropriate people, with concern increasing with the age of the child. The same is also true for parental concern about cyber-bullying: a majority of parents are not very or at all concerned (64%), although concern increases with the age of the child. Around one in four parents of 5-15s (26%) are concerned about the content of the websites their child visits, with a similar proportion (25%) also concerned about who their child is in contact with online. Both these figures have decreased since 2009.
- Childrens dislikes about the media they use are relatively low. However, there has been a significant increase since 2009 in 8-11s with an active social networking profile saying they dislike people getting bullied on social networking sites (32% vs. 18%).
- Nearly one quarter (24%) of 12-15s who use the internet at home say they feel more confident on the internet than in real life. But 12% of 8-15s agree that when Im on the internet I forget about the safety rules.
- Close to half of all children aged 12-15 (47%) say they know of someone who has had gossip spread about them, around one in three (35%) know of someone who has sent an email or text message they regretted, and slightly less than three in ten know of someone who has experienced embarrassing pictures being made public (29%) or of someone pretending to be them (28%).
Parental mediation strategies
- Close to four in five parents of children aged 5 -15 who use the internet at home (78%) say they have put in place any rules about internet use. These rules are more common for children aged 5-7 (80%), or 8-11 (89%), than for children aged 12-15 (66%). There has been no change since 2009 in the overall incidence of rules in place for each of the media that children use at home except that 5-7s are now less likely to have rules in place for gaming.
- Nearly one quarter (23%) of 12-15s say they go online via a mobile phone. However, only one in five (21%) of parents of 12-15s with such phones say that access to over-18 online material has been restricted.
- There has been an increase in setting parental controls on multichannel TV, from 32% of households with 5-15s in 2009 to 36% in 2010. This is driven by parents of children aged 5-7 being more likely to have controls set in 2010 (38% vs. 30%).
- Among parents of children aged 5-15 who use the internet at home, there has been a decrease in the use of internet controls or filtering software (37% vs. 43%), which is driven by a decrease among 8-11s (42% vs. 49%) and 12-15s (35% vs. 41%). The likelihood of having controls set or software loaded does not vary by the household socio-economic group or by the childs gender. Compared to 2009, parents of 8-11s are now more likely to state that controls are not in place because their child is normally supervised (54% vs. 44%) and parents of 8-11s are now less likely to be unaware of how to set such controls (9% vs.17%).
- The majority of parents of 12-15s whose child watches / downloads content from broadcasters websites are aware that broadcasters show guidance labels (62%). However, a smaller proportion, one in eight parents of 12-15s (13%), has actually set up a PIN which needs to be entered before viewing programmes that have a guidance label. There has been no change in awareness of or use of a PIN compared to 2009.
- Parental controls for television and the internet are now at similar levels previously internet controls were more likely to be set.
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UK children’s media literacy (721 kB)
Research Document, Publication date:April 2011