The report The influence of children’s gender and age on children’s use of digital media at home identifies a handful of different perceptions of parents who are trying to limit the amount time their kids spend “plugged-in” are having, but what stays the same among all parents is that their young kids are spending time online. That’s why, coupled with the growing rates of children engaging with digital media, companies must focus on supplying content made especially for kids.

“Children aged 8-11 are spending more hours per week using the internet than in 2013 (10.5 vs. 9.2 hours)” (Ofcom 2014, pg. 7)

“Seven in ten children aged 5-15 now have access to a tablet computer at home…” (Ofcom 2014, pg. 6)

The influence of children’s gender and age on children’s use of digital media at home reports and analyses parent’s perceptions on their children’s use of digital media (activities including watching TV, tablet usage, reading on e-readers, time spent on game consoles, and the use of computers and smartphones) based on a survey of over 700 parents with children aged 0-8 years old.

The two variables explored in the survey are the children’s age (0-8 years old; in groups “0-2”, “3-5”, “6-7”, and “8 and older”) and gender (boy, girl), and what effect these variables have on the parent’s perception of their child’s digital media use.

A main question analysed in the survey results was the extent to which parents felt they were or weren’t able to effectively control the balance between their child’s use of digital media and off-screen alternatives (e.g. reading a print book). Parent’s survey responses ranged from addressing concern over inability to establish an effective balance, health concerns drawn from inability to limit digital use, concerns specific to overuse and the accompanying effect on the social relationships of their young children, the parent’s experiences of the social pressures on themselves regarding limiting their kids use of digital technologies, and finally responses that addressed parent’s inability to establish a balance and their lack of concern about that.

Results and analysis of survey responses

Out of all of the parents that sought to strike a balance between digital and non-digital media usage, parents with young boys were more concerned with the health effects of too much screen time. Alternatively, parents with young girls felt they were able to strike a balance well due to effective house rules and regulating screen time.

Parent’s concerns of health as associated with an imbalance toward the overuse of digital technologies were more prevalent in parents with a very young (0-2 years old) child. Parents with older kids also tended to cite the reason for their inability to limit their child’s screen time as being the overall appeal of digital technologies in comparison to non-digital alternatives.

One of the main concerns arises from parents with 3-4 years olds about the quality of online content. And, while some feel that all use of digital technologies by children at a young age, one salient parent response to the survey was as follows, ‘As long as he’s being educated that’s all that matters’ (pg. 20).

With there being a gap between the perceived amount of quality online content and increase in young children’s use of digital, there is the need to bridge that gap with quality and educational content. The content that will get the attention of the parents is the stuff that provides their kids with something of value while they are online.

“…parents are the primary gatekeepers when it comes to the provision, availability and accessibility of digital technologies for children at home…” (pg. 24)

That is exactly why parents will be looking to guide their kids away from random and misfitting content toward kid-appropriate, digestible, relatable, and quality content.

Further reading

 

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