+ info: Ofcom
What we have found
Online access and attitudes
• Nearly all children went online in 2021 (99%); the majority used a mobile phone (72%) or tablet (69%) to do so.
• More than a third (36%) of primary school-age children did not always have access to an adequate device for online learning at home, compared to 17% of secondary-age children. One in ten primary-age children rarely or never had access (11%), compared to 3% in secondary school.
• Using video-sharing platforms (VSPs) such as YouTube or TikTok was the most popular online activity among children aged 3-17 (95%); while the majority chose to watch content on VSPs, 31% posted content they had made themselves, especially those aged 12-17.
• Among all types of online platforms, YouTube was the most widely used by children; 89% used it, compared to half using TikTok. But TikTok was more popular for posting content.
• A majority of children under 13 had their own profile on at least one social media app or site; 33% of parents of 5-7s said their child had a profile, and 60% of 8-11s said they had one.
• More than six in ten children aged 8-17 said they had more than one profile on some online apps and sites (62%); the most common reason, overall, was having one profile just for their parents, family or friends to see.
• Just four in ten parents of 3-17s knew the minimum age requirement for using most social media; 42% correctly said 13. Four in ten parents of 8-11-year-olds said they would allow their child to use social media (38%).
• Children still watch live television but are more likely to watch paid-for on-demand streaming services; 78% watched services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, compared to 47% watching live TV. Scotland had the largest decline in broadcast viewing.
• Despite almost six in ten teenagers saying they used social media for news, it was the least trusted or accurate news source; 12-15s preferred to trust their family (68%) or the TV (65%) for news.
Parental concerns about children’s content consumption
• Seven in ten parents of children under 16 were concerned about the content their child saw online; the aspects of greatest concern were age-inappropriate content such as violence, bad language and disturbing content and sexual or ‘adult’ content.
• Parents had fewer concerns about the TV content their child watched than about online content: 46% were concerned about their child seeing bad language, violence or disturbing content on TV.
• Parents in Wales were more likely than parents in the other UK nations to be very concerned about some aspects of their child’s media use, such as their child giving out personal details to people online or seeing age-inappropriate content online or on TV.
• Six in ten children aged 3-17 played games online in 2021, increasing to three-quarters of 12-17s.
• More than a third of 8-17s who gamed online played with people they didn’t know (36%); overall, 16% of 8-17s chatted to people they didn’t know, via the messaging/ chat functions in games.
Critical understanding of fake vs real online
• The majority of 12-17s were confident that they could tell what is real and fake online, but only 11% correctly selected, in an interactive survey question showing a social media post, the components of the post which reflected that it was genuine.
• Children in Wales were more likely than those in the other UK nations to pick out only reliable identifiers in the misinformation scenario: 22%, compared to 8% to 11% in other nations.
• More than a fifth of 12-17s were unable to detect a fake online social media profile (22%); a quarter of these thought that the profile picture and posted photos proved that it was real.
Understanding the internet as a commercial landscape
• Nine in ten children aged 12-17 were confident that they could recognise advertising online, but less than four in ten (37%) correctly identified the links at the top of a search engine page as sponsored ads.
• Seven in ten children aged 12-17 were able to correctly identify that an influencer was
promoting a product because of a paid partnership; of these 42% stated this as the only reason, with the remainder suggesting it was due to other reasons such as the influencer simply liking the product.
• Children aged 13-17 were more likely to feel positive than negative about their online use: 53% said that being online was good for their mental health, with a minority disagreeing with this (17%).
• Eight in ten children aged 13-17 used online services to find support for their wellbeing; both Google search and online videos used for sleep, relaxation and good mood emerged as key sources for support among children.
Negative experiences and coping strategies
• More than a third (36%) of children aged 8-17 said they had seen something ‘worrying or nasty’ online in the past 12 months; six in ten said they would always tell someone about this (59%).
• Children were more likely to experience being bullied via technology than face-to-face: 84% of 8-17s said they had been bullied this way (i.e., via text or messaging, on social media, in online games, through phone or video calls, or via other aps and sites) compared to 61% being bullied face-to-face.
• Nearly all children aged 12-17 were aware of at least one safety feature to help keep
themselves safe online (94%); 84% had put these into practice. Blocking people on social media was the behaviour with the highest levels of awareness and use.
• But more than a third had used behaviours that are potentially risky (35%): a fifth had either surfed in privacy or incognito mode (21%) or deleted their browsing history (19%).
• Only a third of children knew how to use online reporting or flagging functions (32%); and just 14% had ever used them.
Parental attitudes and mediation strategies
• Parents in Northern Ireland were less confident about their ability to keep their child safeonline (72%) than parents in either Scotland (82%) or Wales (81%).
• Parents had high awareness of safety-promoting technical tools and controls (91%), but only seven in ten had used any of them (70%). The tools most likely to be used were parental controls built into a device’s software (31%).
• The majority of parents felt their child had a good balance between screen time and doing other things (63%), but 40% said they struggled to control their child’s screen time.