Ofcom Report Reinforces Need for Online Safety

Ofcom have released their Children and Parents: media use and attitudes report 2019. The report provides an in-depth look at how the children of today are interacting with the online world and what affect this may be having on them.

The research focuses on two core age bandings; children aged 3-4 and children and young people aged 5-15. As well as providing an essential insight into how children are accessing the internet, what they are watching and which platforms they are using, it also gives us an invaluable snapshot of how the online world is making children feel and what parents are doing to manage their own concerns.

The report draws on a range of data sources and has been written to help provide a reference point for policymakers, academics, industry and the general public. It also aims to improve the online skills, knowledge and understanding of UK adults and children.

The report summarises its key findings into four broad categories:

Connected Children

  • The report found that 50% of 10-year olds now owned their own mobile phone and labelled this as an important part of the child’s independence milestone. Up until the age of 10, children were more likely to own their own tablet device.
  • The use of smart speakers has also increased, with smart technology becoming more and more commonplace in the home. Smart speakers are now more widely used than radios.
  • Tablets are the most popular choice for going online (68% of 5-15s). Mobile phones are also popular (55% of 5-15s). Furthermore, children are increasingly moving towards tablets and smartphones to watch TV programmes or films.
  • More children watch video-on-demand (VoD) than watch live broadcast TV. 80% of children aged 5-15 watch some form of VoD content compared to 75% who watch live broadcast TV. Netflix remains the most popular choice.

Popular Platforms and Online Activities

  • YouTube remains the platform of choice for children. 75% of 5-15-year-olds use the platform, with the proportion increasing to 9 in 10 between the ages of 12-15. 50% of children aged 3-4 also now use the platform.
  • TikTok and Twitch are becoming increasingly popular. 13% of 12-15s were found to be using TikTok whilst an awareness of live streaming platforms, such as Twitch and Facebook Live, has increased amongst children aged 12-15 from 78% in 2018 to 83% in 2019.
  • WhatsApp has joined Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram as one of the most popular social media platforms used by children.

Online Engagement and Participation

  • ‘Micro’ or ‘nano’ influencers are gaining popularity. Children continue to watch vloggers or YouTube influencers however they are also valuing the ability to follow people local to the area who may share similar interests or who may provide more direct engagement than the bigger names.
  • Elements of children’s critical understanding has improved. This includes recognising influencers being paid to endorse products or services. However, many were still unable to describe how YouTube or Google were funded, how to recognise ads on search engines and don’t consider the truthfulness of the information they see on new sites or apps.

Staying Safe Online 

  • Children are still seeing content which is inappropriate or makes them feel uncomfortable. In particular, instances of viewing hateful content is increasing. Furthermore, despite a high awareness of online reporting functions in 12-15s, only 50% stated they use them.
  • Parents are still children’s first port of call. 89% of children aged 8-11 and 74% of children aged 12-15 stated that they are more likely to tell a parent than anyone else if they’ve seen something worrying or nasty online.
  • However, parents feel less confident about keeping their children safe online the older and more independent they become. Similarly, parents concerns over their child’s screen time increases once their children own their own device.
  • Parents are also becoming increasingly worried about their child seeing content which may encourage self-harm (45% in 2019 compared to 39% in 2018 for parents of children aged 5-15). This was the only concern to see an increase. Collecting information about their children, radicalisation, in-game spending and game-related bullying saw increases for parents of children aged 12-15.

The above are just some of the key points that the research raised. However, there is much more within the report itself which we, as trusted adults, can use to try and understand how children’s attitudes towards the digital and online world are changing.

At National Online safety we pride ourselves in helping to make the internet a safer place for children.

The Ofcom report reinforces our mission and highlights just how quickly the online world can change. We often find that children are leading the conversation around online games, apps and social media platforms and that we are struggling to keep up.

That’s why we have a range of products and resources to help schools, as well as parents and carers, to better understand their statutory obligations, to tackle online risks head on and to feel confident that they are providing the best possible level of e-Safety for their children that they can.

Click below to learn how our Certified School Membership provides a complete for schools to implement an effective approach to online safety.

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