Ofcom, the British regulatory body, has published its annual report about children and the media based on two main sources: a quantitative survey of children 5-15 and their parents (July 2011) plus BARB data (TV people meter panel), etc. Very rich data of which we select only a very small sample. Children and parents: media use and attitudes report (25 October 2011).
We concentrate on the 12-15 age group. They are the youngest teenagers; they attend secondary school. When it comes to media, they set the trends. They are becoming independent, they want to be on their own. They were born after the Web, after the mobile, after digital TV. The youngest were born after Google. They invent new ways of using the media, with or without the consent of adults. Facebook, mobile, DVR, videogames, laptops: it goes without saying. It is their environment, their everyday culture. Digital native users? Almost, but not quite.
What does this report teach us about these young teenagers?
- The Web is everywhere, it is a given: less than 10% of children do not access it from home, 8% do not access it at all.
- The bedroom as mediaroom. Almost half of them (43%) connect to the Web from their bedroom, mostly with a laptop (60%). The Web is becoming a private media, intimate. 40% have a digital TV set in their bedroom. The way they use media is no longer their parents' business. Less "family viewing time"? What about so called "audience conjointe"?
- Which media would they miss the most? Mobile phones (28%), the Internet (25%), TV (18%).
- Smart with a phone. 88% have a phone - more and more often this is a smartphone: 41% have one (46% of the girls). Two-thirds have purchased it in the last six months: this is developing quickly. Smartphones are primarily used for social networking (50% at least once a week: this data is too imprecise; how many each day?). Of course, children with a smartphone use the phone for a broad range of activities (Smartphone, polyphone). Text messaging dominates the communication between 12-15. Music, photos, games, social networking follow.
- Facebook always. 76% of surveyed children have set a social profile (girls more than boys, 81 vs 76%), almost exclusively on Facebook (97%). They are active, update their location...
- Time-shifting, catch-up are in the air. DVR (Digital / Personal Video Recorder) is in two- thirds of the homes. Two-thirds of the 12-15 age group use a DVR. 32% use on-demand services. Is linear TV out? Soon!
- Videogames. 9 in 10 play video games, both boys and girls; slightly skewed toward boys.
- More and more video and Web in their life. In comparison with 2010: watching television (95% vs. 92%), using the internet (85% vs. 80%), watching DVDs or videos (53% vs. 46%). Does this mean that there is less and less of other activities (reading, sport, etc.)? Are multitasking, multiscreentasking growing? Or do we not yet know how to measure this consumption?
Smartphones first. Facebook, laptops, private use of digital media, videogames, desegregated linear TV, a la carte. Less empty time, less idleness. Busy with digital media. Mobile and private media consumption. The difference between girls and boys' behavior is practically nil.
Next time, the survey will tell us about tablets and eReaders.
N.B. Most of the questions in these surveys focus on parental control, rules, safety, supervision, etc. Since the data comes from in-home interviews with parents and children, the answers are questionable. "Everybody lies" - especially the parents!