Research commissioned by Ofcom examined how children use media and communications through the day. Using a diary approach, it analysed time spent either watching, listening, playing, reading or using text, voice or video communications. Although they are still watching television, older children appear to spend significantly less of their total watching time viewing live television than adults.

The study is based on a relatively small sample of 359 school age children, in addition to a nationally representative sample of over 1,600 adults in the United Kingdom.

The survey found that children aged 6-11 spent the least time with media and communications, at just over 5 hours a day, with the least simultaneous use of any age group.

Children aged 11-15 squeeze over 9.5 hours of media and communications use into just over 7 hours a day.

Young adults aged 16-24 had the greatest use of media and communications, with over 14 hours of activity spent over 9 hours a day.

Over half the media and communications time of primary school children was spent watching some form of television or video.

Secondary school children spent a similar amount of time watching, but it constituted only 31% of their media and communications time.

While 90% of the younger children reported watching live television during the week, this fell to 78% among those aged 11-15, who spent just over half of their viewing time watching live television and a fifth watching short online clips.

Adults reported spending 69% of their watching time viewing live television and just 2% viewing short online video clips.

Proportion of time by watching activities. Source: Ofcom

According to BARB audience research, children watched an average of 2.23 hours of television a day in 2013, compared to 2.37 hours in 2012, 2.45 in 2011 and 2.51 in 2010. However, the weekly reach, based on at least three minutes of consecutive viewing, has risen slightly, from 91.7% to 92.3%, a couple of percentage points below that for all individuals.

Children have generally watched less television than other age groups. They typically have less time available to view and other things to do.

They now have a far greater range of devices, services and media available to them then previous generations.

Six out of ten children in the study said they used a tablet, which was the most used device after television among 6-11 year olds, while for those aged 11-15 it was a smartphone.

So it is interesting to see that with access to such devices, children still appear to be watching live television, but as a proportion of their total watching time it this is significantly lower among teenagers than for adults.

The differences are even more distinct with radio and music listening. Only four out of ten children claimed to listen to live radio on a weekly basis and among those aged 11-15 it accounted for only a fifth of their total listening time, compared to 71% for adults.

What is still unclear is whether as they grow up these children will become more like their parents in their viewing behaviour or if they will maintain the habits with which they have grown up.

Digital Day: Results from the children’s diary study is available from the Ofcom web site. It is based on a sample of 186 children aged 6-11 and 173 children aged 11-15.