Digital Lifestyles: parents of children under 16

11 June 2009

Executive summary

This report is designed to give an accessible overview of media literacy among parents of children under 16 in the UK. The purpose of the report is to support people working in this area to develop and promote media literacy among this group. It is based on a much larger programme of research Ofcom's Media Literacy Audits, which were published in 2008.

Access and use

Parents of under-16s are more likely than the overall adult population to live in households with digital television and the internet. In addition, those parents without access to the internet at home are twice as likely as adults more generally without home access to say they will get access in the next year. Affordability is the key reason among parents of under-16s for not having home internet access; this is more common among parents who are aged under 35.

While parents of under-16s are more likely than the general adult population to regularly use new media such as mobile phones, the internet and games consoles, regular use of more traditional media such as television and radio is at the same level as for all adults. Regular use of new media devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players is higher among parents aged under 35.

There is little difference between parents and the general adult population in the types of functions that the internet is used for and the typical volume of use. However, this masks some differences between younger and older parents of children under 16: younger parents are more likely to use the internet for creative activities such as social networking, and for entertainment, and more likely to use the internet for longer in a typical week.

Interest, confidence, concerns and judgements

Overall, parents of under-16s are more likely than all adults to be interested in, and confident in using, the services and functions available through digital television and mobile phones, but this greater interest and confidence is not evident for all aspects of the internet.

Parents of under-16s are more likely than all adults to be interested in being able to restrict access to television programmes or channels. However, while a majority of parents are interested in being able to restrict access to television content, parents of under-16s in C2DE socio-economic groups are less interested in this function than those in ABC1 socio-economic groups. One in five parents of under-16s say that they are interested, but not confident, in using this function; with females more likely than males to lack confidence (23% vs. 14%). Levels of interest in restricting access to television content do not vary according to the age of the child in the household.

Parents of under-16s are also more likely than all adults to be interested in using software to restrict access to websites. Although the majority of parents are interested in using this kind of software, one in four is interested, but not confident, in doing it. Females are more likely than males to lack confidence (32% vs. 19%). Parents of children aged 5-11 are more likely to be interested in restricting access to websites, compared to parents of children under 5 or over 11.

Most parents who use the internet are very confident in finding what they want online. However, only a minority are as confident in being able to tell whether a website is truthful and reliable.

As with the general adult population, most parents of under-16s say they would make some kind of judgement about a website before entering personal details, and their reservations about entering personal details online match those of all adults.

Parents of under-16s have higher levels of concern about the internet and about gaming than the general adult population. However, this group is comparable to the general adult population in the extent to which they have any concerns about television, mobile phones and radio. Older parents of under-16s (those aged 35 and over) are more likely than younger parents to have concerns about television and the internet in particular.

Funding and regulation

Awareness of content funding and regulation across all parents of under-16s is comparable to the general adult population, but lower among parents aged under 35. Awareness of the television watershed is also lower among younger parents.

Learning

Parents' interest in learning about digital technology generally is comparable to that among all adults. Asking friends or family, reading the manual and trial and error are the preferred methods of learning.