UK children's media literacy 2010

26 March 2010

Executive summary

This report is designed to give an accessible overview of media literacy among UK children and young people aged 5-15 and their parents/ carers (-1-). The purpose of this report is to support people working in this area to develop and promote media literacy among these groups.

This report is the third full report since our survey began in 2005. It is therefore able to show trends over time for many of the questions asked. Due to different survey periods and focus, some comparisons are made with 2005 and 2007 data, and others with 2007 and 2008, and change over time is highlighted against either 2007 or 2008 accordingly.

Children's access to, and use of, media

Households with children aged 5-15(-2-) have high levels of take-up of all the main media platforms, with considerable growth since 2007 for home internet access and Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) in particular. Children aged 8-15 in DE(-3-) households remain less likely than households with children in other socio-economic groups to have access to digital television, DVRs and the internet.

While home internet access has increased for households with children aged 5-15, the proportion of children who do not use the internet at all has remained consistent since 2007, accounting for one in four 5-7s (25%), around one in fifteen 8-11s (7%) and a very small proportion of 12-15s (1%).

Children in DE households are less likely than UK children as a whole to have access to the internet, digital television, games consoles and DVRs at home. With lower levels of internet access in the home, children in DE households are more likely than others to only use the internet at school (14% vs. 9%).

While a PC or laptop is the equipment most likely to be used to access the internet at home, one in seven parents of a child aged 5-15 with a games console (14%) state that their child uses their games console to access the internet (with this figure being substantially higher for 12-15s (21%). Just over one in ten parents of a child aged 5-15 with their own mobile phone (12%) states that their child uses a mobile phone to access the internet. However, accessing the internet through a mobile phone or games console does not appear to be replacing access through a PC / laptop, but rather is in addition to this form of access.

Children are likely to have a TV in their bedroom, with this being the case for half of 5-7s (49%), two-thirds of 8-11s (67%) and three-quarters of 12-15s (77%). Since 2008, older children are now more likely to have internet access and a games console (either fixed or portable) in their bedroom. One in eight children aged 8-11 (12%) and three in ten 12-15s (31%) have internet access in their bedroom. Seven in ten 8-11s (71%) and three in four 12-15s (74%) have a games console in their bedroom.

Children aged 12-15 continue to be more likely than younger children to use media away from the living room and without an adult present. Around half of children in each age group who ever play games, say they mostly play on their own. One in eight (13%) of 12-15s says they mostly play games with other people over the internet.

Children's and parents' attitudes and mediation strategies

Parental attitudes towards the internet are mostly positive, with the majority of parents of children aged 8-15 whose child uses the internet at home stating that "The benefits of the internet for my child outweigh any risks" (68%) or that "I trust my child to use the internet safely" (85%). Four in five (79%) parents also agree that "My child has been taught at school how to use the internet safely", with three in five (61%) also agreeing that "My child knows more about the internet than I do". Parents of children aged 8-15 in DE households are more likely than all parents to disagree that "I trust my child to use the internet safely" and that "The benefits of the internet for my child outweigh any risks" and to agree that "My child knows more about the internet than I do". Since 2007, parents of 8-15s are now less inclined to agree with these statements about their child and the internet. For example, in 2007 93% of parents of children aged 12-15 agreed that "I trust my child to use the internet safely" and in 2009 this has decreased to 89% of parents of children aged 12-15.

A sizeable minority of parents of 8-15s have concerns about the media content that their child sees or hears. For example, four in ten parents of 5-7s and 8-11s (both 40%) say they are concerned about the content of the TV programmes their child watches. However by the time children are aged 12-15, their parents are more likely to be concerned about internet content (34%).

Parental rules for TV, the internet and games are in place for between 80-90% of 5-11s, and at a lower level for 12-15s. Rules for mobile phone use are in place for around seven in ten 8-15s (69%). Since 2008, there has been no change in the overall incidence of parental rules for any media. Rules about the internet are less common for 12-15s who say they mostly use the internet alone (65%) than for 12-15s who say they mostly use the internet with other people in the room (77%).

While there has been some increase in concern about the potential risks associated with internet usage, this is not matched by an increase in the use of rules, internet controls / filtering software, or use of safe search settings on search engine websites among parents of children who use the internet at home.

Currently, just over two in five (43%) parents of children aged 5-15 say they have controls or filtering software in place, a decrease since 2008 (49%). The reasons given for not having such controls set or software loaded vary depending on the age of the child - older children are more likely to be trusted to be sensible or responsible while younger children are more likely to be supervised or to be considered too young for it to be an issue. Fourteen per cent of parents of 5-15s without controls in place say they either haven't heard of, or don't know how to set up, internet controls or filtering software, which was also the case in 2008.

Since 2007, parents of children aged 5-15 with digital television services at home are more likely to have PIN or password controls set on their television. One in three households with multichannel television has set up access controls (32% compared to 28% in 2007) although this remains lower than the use of internet controls or filtering software. Parents who say they do not have digital television controls set up give various reasons, but most commonly say that they trust their child to be sensible / responsible, although one in six (16%) say they either haven't heard of, or don't know how to set up such controls, which was also the case in 2008.

One in five children aged 8-15 who use the internet at home say they have ever watched / downloaded TV programmes or films (21%), an increase of four percentage points on 2008. Those aged 12-15 who mostly use the internet on their own are more likely to be watching/ downloading TV programmes or films than those who watch mostly with others 36% vs. 22%.

Among those parents whose child watches TV or movies through a TV broadcaster's website, a majority (64%) are aware of the Guidance label system that exists on broadcasters' websites. One in eight (12%) parents whose child watches TV or movies through a TV broadcaster's website has set up PIN controls to regulate the viewing of such content with a guidance label.

While children have some dislikes associated with their use of media, relatively few children aged 8-15 have concerns about being exposed to media content that makes them "feel sad, frightened or embarrassed" or content that they feel is too old for them.

In terms of children's attitudes towards the internet, around one in six children state that "it's easier to keep things private or secret on the internet than it is in real life" (16%) with one in seven children aged 8-15 saying they "feel more confident online than they do in real life" (14%), or that "it's easier to talk about personal things on the internet" (14%).

Knowledge, understanding and creative usage of media among 8-15s

While the majority of children aged 8-15 feel confident using media, one in seven children aged 12-15 (14%) do not feel confident using the internet for more creative activities (such as making blogs, sharing photos online or uploading short videos to the internet).

The majority make a distinction between the veracity of different television genres, for example, news, documentaries and reality programmes. One in four 12-15s (27%) who use search engines think that search engines only return results from websites with truthful information. Three in five children aged 12-15 (63%) who use the internet at home make at least one of the checks we asked about when visiting new websites, but a quarter (26%) say they tend to not make any checks.

Over two in five 12-15s (44%) think that downloading shared copies of music and movies should not be illegal.

Seven in ten (70%) 12-15s with the internet at home have a social networking site profile, compared to 52% in 2008. One in five (22%) 8-11s have set up such a profile, which has also increased since 2008 (from 16%). Children aged 12-15 with a social networking profile are now more likely to restrict access to their profiles so that they can be seen only by their friends (78% vs. 59%). Boys aged 8-15 are more likely than girls of this age-group to say that their profile can be seen by anyone (21% vs. 13%).

The minimum age for registering with social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace is thirteen. However, one in five children aged 8-12 that use the internet at home say they have a page or profile on Facebook (19%), one in ten (11%) on Bebo and one in twenty (four per cent) on MySpace. At an overall level, one in four (25%) home internet users aged 8-12 have a profile on at least one of these three sites, an increase from 15% in 2008.

Among those users aged 8-12 with a page or profile on either Facebook, Bebo or MySpace, one in ten (11%) say they have set their profile to be visible by anyone, with four in five (83%) setting their profile so that it can only be seen by friends, an increase from 67% in 2008. Four per cent prevent their profile being seen at all. Over eight in ten (83%) parents of these users are aware that their children visit social networking sites. Of these, 93% say they check what their child is doing. However one in six (17%) parents of this group is not aware that their child visits social networking sites.

Compared to all children aged 8-12 who use the internet at home and don't have a profile on these three sites, children of this age with a profile on these sites are more likely to use the internet on their own, internet rules are no more likely to be in place in these households and internet controls/ filtering software are less likely to be installed.

Learning about digital media

Younger children aged 8-11 have a preference for learning about digital media from parents (57%) or at school (45%) whereas older children prefer to learn from their peers (51%).

A minority of children (21% of 8-11s and 36% of 12-15s) say they are taught about television at school, while seven in ten 8-11s (73%) and four in five 12-15s (84%) say they have lessons about the internet.


  1.- The report comprises two waves of data; one wave of data from spring 2009 and one wave from autumn 2009. The data across both these waves have been combined to give an overall picture for the year, with this report following on from the interim report which was published in October 2009.

  2.- Where possible, findings are shown for 5-15s as well as for the particular age groups (5-7, 8-11 and 12-15). However, some questions in earlier surveys, as well as particular questions in the current survey, were not asked of all age groups of children so in these cases findings are shown for 8-15s or for 12-15s.

  3.- "DE households" can be defined as those households where the chief income earner is either a semi-skilled or unskilled manual worker, including those serving apprenticeships or those on the lowest levels of subsistence including all those dependent upon the state long term, casual workers and those without a regular income.