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Young children favour tablets over laptops and 34% have their own device, reveals Ofcom

Twice as many UK children aged between five and 15 years old prefer to use a tablet to go online than a laptop or desktop, while an increasing number own their own tablet, according to Ofcom’s latest research.

The regulator has revealed that one in three children in the UK have their own tablet, rather than use their parents' – nearly doubling within the last year (from 19 per cent in 2013). While 42 per cent of children studied prefer tablets, 23 per cent prefer a laptop or desktop.

More than one in ten (11 per cent) children aged between three and four years old have their own tablet – up from three per cent in 2013, a rise which Ofcom has attributed to the increasing amount of time young children spend surfing the web, playing games and watching video clips on their tablets before they go to school.

Around two thirds (62 per cent) of children in that age bracket use a tablet at home – up from 42 per cent since 2013.

Meanwhile fewer children have TVs, games consoles and radios in their bedrooms, with the number of TVs specifically falling by a third over the past five years to 46 per cent.

However, the amount of children watching TV shows on a tablet has soared 20 per cent within a year, while 33 per cent watch on-demand TV.

Yet TVs remain important to children, with 34 per cent saying they would miss them more than other devices such as their smartphones or games consoles.

Only 17 per cent said they would miss their mobiles most, while 15 per cent said they would miss their tablets most and 11 per cent said games consoles would be most missed.

However, smartphones proved more vital at the upper end of the age bracket, with those aged between 12 and 15 years old twice as likely to miss their phones, according to the report.

Children aged between five and 15 years old spend more time watching TV every week (14.6 hours) than any other media activity, although this has dropped slightly from 15.4 hours in 2013.

Gender differences

The report has highlighted a major difference in how boys and girls use their devices, with girls more likely to use them for social activities.

Typically, girls aged 12-15 years old send more text messages than boys (163 versus 113) and make more mobile phone calls (23 versus 17).

Nearly half (47 per cent) of girls in this age bracket cite their mobile phone as the device they would miss most, compared to nearly a third of older boys (29 per cent). Girls of this age are also more likely than boys to most miss a tablet (16 per cent versus nine per cent).

Both girls and boys are equally active on social media, although Instagram is more popular with girls than boys (42 per cent versus 30 per cent).

Snapchat is also more popular with girls, with 33 per cent of them using it compared to 20 per cent of boys, while Tumblr has even greater odds – with 11 per cent of girls using it versus only three per cent of boys.

YouTube is the social media platform that attracts more boys with 29 per cent of 12-15 year-olds using the video sharing site, compared to 15 per cent of girls.

Managing online risk

Most parents (90 per cent) whose children go online are actively helping them manage risks when using the internet.

Popular methods include supervising their children online, with 84 per cent of parents opting to do this; while 78 per cent chose to speak to their children about managing online risks. A total 82 per cent have put rules in place about use and access of the internet.

Over half (54 per cent) of parents whose children go online use some kind of technical tool to manage online risks, including filters, pin-locks or passwords and parental control and virus protection software.

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