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UK children top up TV hours with online viewing

25 Tachwedd 2014

  • Older children spend twice as long as adults watching online content  
  • 11-15 year olds consume a fifth of the radio listened to by adults each day

New Ofcom research published today reveals the extent to which children are topping up traditional live TV viewing by watching online video clips and catch-up TV.

Ofcom’s Children’s Digital Day research (PDF, 756.0 KB) shows that older children aged 11-15 are watching half the amount of live TV per day as adults (1 hour 32 minutes versus 2 hours 58 minutes).

In contrast, older children are spending six times longer than adults watching short online video clips on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo (33 minutes versus 5 minutes).

This research involved children aged 6-15 filling in a three-day diary on their media and communications habits.

Half (45%) of 11-15 year olds watch online video clips on websites every week compared with 20% of adults. These video clips account for around a fifth (19%) of overall viewing time for this age group compared with just 2% for adults.

Children aged 11-15 watch a similar amount of free on-demand TV - from services such as BBC iPlayer and 4oD - to adults each day (13 minutes versus 12 minutes). But a greater proportion of adults are likely to watch these services each week (38%, compared with 26% of 11-15 year olds).


The study also found that nearly all UK adults reported watching live TV every week over the course of a week (94%), compared with just over three-quarters (78%) of children aged 11-15 and 90% of 6-11 year-olds.

Taking control of radio

The research finds that that children are taking greater control over what they listen to, compared to adults.

More than three-quarters (77%) of adults tune into the radio each week, compared to four in ten (42%) children. In our study, adults listened to five times more radio each day than children (1 hour 19 minutes vs. 15 minutes for children aged 11-15).

Older children are also engaging with online and digital music more than adults do. Each week, 11-15s are more likely to stream music (19% vs. 13% of adults), listen to their own digital music (44% vs. 33%), and twice as likely to listen to music videos (22% vs. 11%).

Compared with all adults, a significantly smaller proportion of children’s listening time is spent on live radio (21% of 11-15s, compared with 71% of all adults). Instead, over half (54%) of 11-15 year-olds’ listening time is spent on digital music, either streamed or stored on a device.


Children hanging up the phone

Children are using social media and instant messaging to communicate with friends rather than using the phone, in sharp contrast to adults.

Adults are more than three times more likely than 11-15 year-olds to talk on the phone each week (83% vs. 25%) and they spend six times longer talking on the phone (29 minutes a day vs. 5 minutes).

Twice the proportion of 11-15 year olds communicate via a social media site than make a phone call (47% vs. 25%) and five times as many use instant messaging than email, each week (40% vs. 8%).

More than half (56%) the time spent communicating by older children is taken up by text messaging, instant messaging and photo messaging.

This is twice the proportion of time spent by adults on messaging (28%). Older children also spend twice as long as adults communicating via social networking sites each day (52 minutes vs. 25 minutes).

Helping parents manage risks

We understand that some parents may be concerned about the new technology being used by children, particularly if they do not use it themselves. Ofcom has published a range of guides for parents to help them understand more about parental controls and how to protect their children in a digital world.

Ofcom recognises that increasing internet and on-demand viewing will pose new challenges for protecting children from unsuitable content in the future.

Ofcom is working with Government, other regulators and industry to ensure that children remain protected if they choose on-demand TV or online content over traditional broadcast TV, where Ofcom’s strict watershed rules apply.

This work will help ensure that consumers have a clear understanding of the protections that apply on different platforms and devices, and that the public are aware of which regulatory body they should turn to for advice, or to report any concerns.


  1. This research is central to Ofcom’s promotion of media literacy, a responsibility placed on Ofcom by the Communications Act 2003.
  2. The term children, in this news release, is used to refer to children aged 6-15, unless the age is otherwise specified. Radio refers to ‘live radio’ and TV to ‘live TV’ unless other forms, such as on-demand services, are used.
  3. The Digital Day research was part of Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2014. A nationally representative sample of UK adults participated in the main Digital Day study in March-April 2014, completing seven-day media diaries. Alongside the adult study, a sample of 186 primary school aged children (aged 6-11) and 173 secondary aged school children (aged 11-15) completed three-day media diaries including two week days and one weekend day.
  4. The TV figures were self-reported so may differ from industry-collected data such as BARB.
  5. Table showing minutes per day recorded by children and adults for various ‘viewing’ activities.

    Live TV (hrs/minutes)

    Free on-demand TV services (minutes)

    Streamed TV or films, paid for (minutes)

    Short video clips (minutes)

    Recorded TV (minutes)

    Physical format eg DVD, Blu-ray (minutes)


    2 hr 58 min







    1 hr 32 min






    Children 6-11

    1 hr 51 min






  7. Parents were surveyed about methods for protecting children from various types of media in the Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014, an annual report published in October 2014.
  8. Ofcom supports Get Safe Online, the UK’s national internet security awareness initiative. Ofcom also works closely with UKCCIS - the UK Council for Child Internet Safety - which brings together more than 180 organisations to help keep children and young people safe online.
  9. Ofcom has produced a set of consumer guides to help parents to manage their children’s access to digital media. These include: Protecting your Child in the Digital World, Parental Controls for Mobile Phones and Children and In-app Purchases.