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Children in UK spend more time on the internet that in front of TV

January 27th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper reported yesterday on a survey finding that for the first time children in the UK are spending more time on the internet than in front of the TV.

Research firm Childwise found that on average five- to 15-year-olds were spending three hours a day using the internet, compared to 2.1 hours watching TV.

While time spent watching television has been in decline for some years, time online has seen a huge surge according to the research, up 50% from two hours last year.

However, there are  some problems with the survey results. The research, which is based on an online survey of more than 2,000 children, did not distinguish between TV-like services on the internet, such as Netflix and iPlayer, and other forms of browsing such as Facebook, meaning it is unclear whether children are merely watching shows in different ways.

However, says the Guardian “the report says that YouTube has taken “centre stage in children’s lives” with half accessing it every day and almost all using it at least occasionally.

The majority of children who use YouTube visit the site to access music videos (58%), while around half watch “funny content” and a third say they watch gaming content, vlogs, TV programmes or “how to” videos.”

The survey also reported that time spent reading books for pleasure has declined from an hour a day on average in 2012 to just over half an hour on average this year. However, once more this does not include time reading books on computers.

I am not sure that raw figures of time spent watching TV versus time spent on the internet, be it computers, tablets or mobiles is the real story, although it might be of concern to advertising executives. More interesting would be to know more about patterns of use of computers, what levels of interaction there are with others and the degree to which computers are used actively or creatively compared to the passive entertainment which marked most television viewing.

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