Half of 10 year olds own a smartphone

Article Date: 4th February 2020

According to Ofcom in their Children and Parents Media use and attitudes report 2019,  half of the ten-year-olds now own their own smartphone.

In addition, 24% of 3 and 4-year-olds had their own tablet, and 15% of them were allowed to take it to bed.

The Ofcom report looks at the media habits of children and the types of devices being used. It was based on more than 3,200 interviews with children and parents across the United Kingdom.

What the report has found

Connected children

Half of the ten-year-olds now own their own smartphone. Between the ages of nine and ten, smartphone ownership doubles – marking an important milestone in children’s digital independence as they prepare for secondary school.

Use of smart speakers among children aged 5-15 has doubled over the last year. This means that, for the first time, they’re more widely used than radios.

More children watch video-on-demand (VoD) than watch live broadcast TV. Viewing of VoD has doubled over the last five years. One in four children does not watch live broadcast TV at all.


Popular platforms and online activities

YouTube remains a firm favorite among children. 5 to 15-year-olds are more likely to pick YouTube as their platform of choice over on-demand services such as Netflix, or TV channels including the BBC and ITV.

Children’s social media use is diversifying. WhatsApp, in particular, has gained popularity over the past year, joining Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram as one of the top social media platforms used by children.

Newer platforms such as TikTok and Twitch are gaining popularity. TikTok is used by 13% of 12- to 15-year olds – up from 8% in 2018 – while Twitch is used by 5%.

Girl gamers are on the increase. Almost half of the girls aged 5-15 now play games online – up from 39% in 2018.


Online engagement and participation

Rise of the ‘vlogger next door’. While high-profile YouTube stars remain popular, children are now increasingly drawn to influencers who are often local to their area, or who have a particular shared interest – known as ‘micro’ or ‘nano’ influencers.

Elements of children’s critical understanding have increased. Awareness of vlogger endorsement and how the BBC is funded have both increased; while understanding how search engines (such as Google) work and the ability to recognise advertising on these sites are both unchanged since 2018.

The ‘Greta effect’ and online social activism. 2019 saw an increase in older children using social media to support causes or organisations, while one in ten signed an online petition of some sort.


Staying safe online

Children are seeing more hateful online content than they used to, and several children in their Media Lives research reported seeing violent and other disturbing content online. Half of 12 – 15s say they have seen something hateful about a particular group of people in the last year – up from a third in 2016. Four in ten took some form of action, but the majority ignored it.

Parents are also increasingly concerned about their child seeing self-harm related content online and some elements of online gaming. Almost half of the parents of 5-15s are concerned about their child seeing content that might encourage them to harm themselves, up from 39% in 2018. There have also been increases in the proportion of parents of 12-15s worried about in-game spending (from 40% to 47%) and game-related bullying (32% vs 39%).

Fewer parents feel that the benefits of their child being online outweighed the risks compared to five years ago. Just over half of parents of 5-15s feel this (55%), compared to two-thirds (65%) in 2015. However, there are indications that more parents are talking to their child about online safety (85% of parents of 5-15s) than compared to 2018 (81%).


To read more on the Ofcom report, see the Children’s media use and attitudes 2019 for more detail. To help protect your family from online threats, see our collection of solutions from Kaspersky Security Software.