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April 13, 2023

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Communications regulator Ofcom has released their annual Media Use and Attitudes Report that looks at recent online trends and the attitudes of children and parents across the UK.

The report provides an insight into the media use, attitudes and understanding of children and young people aged 3-17. It also looks at how the parents of this age group are monitoring and managing their child’s online activity and their views on the same.

The positives and negatives of being online

The Media Use and Attitudes report gives an overview on the positive and negative aspects experienced by children and young people online.

Ofcom found that children aged 12-17 and their parents often recognised there were benefits to going online:

  • Helps with schoolwork/homework (81% children, 84% parents).
  • Building or maintaining friendships (68% children, 65% parents).
  • Developing creative skills (45% children, 50% parents).

On the other hand,

  • Two fifths of 8-17-year-olds thought that people were mean or unkind to other people on social media, messaging apps or sites all or most of the time.
  • 26% believed that there was pressure to be popular on these types of platforms all or most of the time.
  • Less than three in ten parents of 3-17-year-olds (28%) believed the benefits of their child using social media, messaging and video-sharing apps or sites outweighed the risks.
  • 29% of children aged 8-17 had experienced a person being nasty or hurtful to them via a communication technology (such as an app, social media site, gaming or mobile phone).
  • 71% of children aged 5-15 years old have seen hateful content online, and 34% have seen nude or nearly nude images or videos.
  • 27% of children aged 8-15 years old who use social media have experienced some form of cyberbullying.

Screen time

The Media Use and Attitudes report showed a trend of young people continuing to move away from watching live TV and preferring to instead to stream content or watch online videos.

  • 83% of children and young people watch videos on YouTube
  • The amount of 4-15-year-olds watching live TV on a TV set fell 20% since 2021-22
  • 80% of 16 and 17-year-olds watch online live streams

The number of children gaming has increased, from 6 in 10 in last year’s report, to 9 in 10 in this year’s. When asked why they play games, the most popular reasons given were:

  • It’s fun (43%)
  • To hang out with friends (24%)
  • To hang out with family (12%)
A quarter of children aged 8-17 played games online with people they don’t know and 22% chatted to people they didn’t know when gaming.

WhatsApp and TikTok are some of the most used apps, with about half of all 3-17-year-olds using them. As children get older, their use of different apps changes. For example, despite WhatsApp’s age restrictions being set at 16 in the UK, 25% of children aged 3 and 4 use WhatsApp, with that percentage jumping to 80% in 12-17-year-olds.

Most Used Online Platforms

YouTube Logo

Blocking, reporting and parental controls

  • Two-thirds of children aged 12-17 have blocked someone on social media and a third have adjusted their profile settings so fewer people could view their profile.
  • Only one in seven have used the flagging function to report inappropriate content, however, this may be due to the lack of knowledge, with only 15% having awareness of this function.
  • Seven in ten parents surveyed for the report had some technical control in place to manage their child’s access to online content. This was mostly the use of their device’s in-built controls. Only 13% use security apps on their child’s device and parents are less likely to use software or apps that need to be downloaded.

Talking about online safety

The Media Use and Attitudes report shows that lots of conversations about online safety are happening both at home and in the classroom.

Teacher in a classroom holding an iPhone that says block and report
  • A reassuring 91% of 8–17-year-olds had talked to someone about being safe online and 88% of those conversations were chatting with a family member.
  • 86% of parents have spoken to their child about how to stay safe online, including the potential dangers of content on apps and sites that might be age inappropriate, sharing too much information and about being in contact with people they don’t know.
  • But learning how to be safe online isn’t just happening at home. 80% of children and young people had also received information about how to use the internet safely by someone outside the family, most commonly through a teacher.

By looking at trends in how children and young people are using and thinking about media and the internet, we can better reflect on how to help keep them safer online.

Discussing Online Life With Your Child

The high percentage of parents who are talking with their children about being safe online is encouraging. It’s important that online safety is an ongoing conversation for every family with children and young people.

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We understand the difficulties of keeping up to date with the world of social media, that’s why we’ve created the Staying Safe Online bundle to help you understand how children and young people engage online, the risks they are exposed to and the actions you can take to help keep them safer. Discover more safeguarding training courses here.

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