The digital drug of the nation

YouTube Play at The Guggenheim (Flickr: @NYCphotos-flickr)

YouTube Play at The Guggenheim (Flickr: @NYCphotos-flickr)

If you have siblings/children/grandchildren of a certain age then you *might* have heard of Minecraft, which earlier this month extended its hold on popular culture with the launch of its own Lego range.

Videos of the blocky computer game form a massively popular sub-genre on YouTube – having been watched 47 billion times and counting – and it’s this sort of shift in media consumption that a new Ofcom report takes aim at.

One of the stand-out points in the UK communications regulator’s new Children’s Digital Day report is the rise in online viewing among older children as they ‘top-up’ traditional live television viewing.

The report isn’t earth-shattering (that YouTube, social media and instant messaging are popular with the kids hopefully won’t surprise anyone too much), but its findings are still worth a closer look.

First up, those aged 11-15 watch half the amount of live TV each day as adults, but spend six times longer than adults watching short YouTube and Vimeo clips – among them Minecraft videos no doubt.

The research also found that half (45%) of 11-15 year olds watch online video clips every week compared with 20% of adults – in fact, such video clips make up around a fifth (19%) of overall viewing time for this age group compared with just 2% for adults.

The study involved 186 primary school aged children (aged 6-11) and 173 secondary school aged children (aged 11-15) completing three-day media diaries, including two week days and one weekend day, with the results compared with a representative sample of 1,644 UK adults who completed seven-day media diaries.

Ofcom adults children media tv on-demand streamed

Music too was found to be more of a digital pastime for older children – though this was less pronounced. However, 11-15s are still more likely to stream music (19% versus 13% of adults), listen to their own digital music (44% versus 33%), and twice as likely to listen to music videos (22% versus 11%).

Ofcom adults children media radio streaming

Social media and instant messaging

Unsurprisingly, the report found that social media and instant messaging have overtaken the telephone as communication tools among the young (in sharp contrast, again unsurprisingly, to adults).

Twice the proportion of 11-15 year olds communicate via a social media site than make a phone call (47% versus 25%) and five times more use instant messaging than email each week (40% versus 8%).

In fact, over half (56%) of the time older children spend communicating is taken up by text messages, instant messages and photo messages – twice the proportion of time spent by adults on messaging (28%). Older children also spend twice as long communicating via social networking sites than adults each day (52 minutes versus 25 minutes).

So, as has been evident for some time, the digital drug of the nation is consumed across multiple platforms, channel and devices – and as media habits change entirely new media models are emerging.

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