Communications regulator Ofcom has released its latest Media Use and Attitudes Report 2022 looking at the recent online trends and attitudes of children and parents across the UK.
The report provides a clear snapshot of parents, children, and young people’s current media habits that can help us understand the emerging trends, risks, and threats. Our online safety experts have identified six key trends from the report that that will shape online safety conversations at school and at home.
1. Online Safety Knowledge and Practice
The Ofcom report showed that online safety is a growing topic in households. Despite parents, children, and young people being more knowledgeable about the tools available to keep them safer online, this knowledge is not being put into practice.
The study showed that most parents (76%) feel that they know enough to keep their children safe online and over half speak to their children about online safety every few weeks. Similarly, most children reported having been spoken to about online safety, either by parent or teacher.
92% of parents had rules in place to safeguard children online, including spending rules, gaming rules and who they can talk to online.
9 in 10 parents were aware of safety-promoting tools and controls on platforms but only 7 in 10 reported using them.
Most parents (71%) were concerned about the possibility of their child being exposed to adult or sexual content.
64% are concerned about possible exposure to self-harm material.
52% are worried that their child may encounter extreme views online (such as extreme religious or political ideologies).
Children and Young People
Nearly all children know how to take at least 1 safety-promoting function online (such as changing privacy settings).
However, only 14% had used a reporting or flagging feature online.
More than a third (35%) of young people aged 12 to 17 reported using measures that put them at more risk of seeing harmful content.
The report showed that children and young people are consuming media in more formats simultaneously which can make it challenging for families to create and maintain healthy screen time habits.
Children and young people are more likely to engage in ‘multi-screening’ (using multiple devices at the same time) and report being unable to concentrate on one task at a time.
Different devices in multi-screening are used for different purposes (such as watching a TV show on a television screen, using a laptop for a school assignment, and scrolling through TikTok on their phone).
TV remained the most popular way to watch TV shows or films (86%) from last year, but the same number of children and young people reported streaming content on a different device.
YouTube was the most used app to watch content by children and young people aged 3 to 17. (89%)
The way in which children and young people are using social media platforms is changing. Underage children and young people are using social media with parental approval, there appears to be less posting overall and more focus on controlling what family and friends can see.
Posting online is less appealing to children and young people, with social media showing less posts from peers but more from brands, celebrities, and influencers.
There was also a notable decrease in aspirations to become a professional streamer or influencer. Children and young people claimed that uploading content was more fun without the pressure to earn more followers.
Most children and young people (3-17s) use social media but in different ways:
12-17s are more likely to be on Instagram.
TikTok is more popular amongst 8-11s (despite them being below the age of 13).
44% of parents of children aged between 11 and 12 were fine with their child having an account on social media despite being underage.
Only a third of parents reported being aware of minimum age requirements for social media.
8-11s were more likely (46%) to have a separate account for family to see.
40% of 16-17s reported having a private account for closest friends and a public account for everyone else.
Gaming remains a popular hobby for children and young people but the Ofcom report highlighted that they play with strangers when online and the likelihood of this occurring increases with age.
6 in 10 children and young people reported playing games online. Boys were more likely to report playing games online, but gaming was still common among girls. Most children played games on a console (59%) (such as PlayStation or Xbox), followed by playing on mobile (54%).
Most parents (9 in 10) reported having rules in place for gaming and half of parents play games with their children (especially younger children). However, only 33% of parents believed that the benefits of gaming outweighed risks and 40% were unsure. Over half of parents were concerned that their child was talking to strangers.
Online gaming is a social experience:
72% of children and young people aged between 3 and 17-years-old played against someone they know offline.
2/3 reported playing alone and 1/3 play against strangers.
12-17s were the more likely to play with strangers but 31% of 8-11s and 22% 5-7s reported doing the same.
Three quarters of 8-17s chatted with other players during a game.
The likelihood of chatting with strangers in game increased with age – from 25% of 8-11s to 45% of 16-17s.
The report showed an increase in children and young people seeking support online through a wide range of sources including influencers, dedicated apps, and videos.
Children and young people reported seeking support online for their wellbeing. Google and online videos were seen as key sources of support for a variety of issues, with a quarter of children and young people going online to learn about “growing up issues” like puberty, sleep issues, meditation or to feel energised.
Watching influencers, joining support forums on social media, watching videos, using dedicated apps, or listening to wellbeing podcasts were all used to digitally support mental health.
8 in 10 of children aged between 3 and 17 used online services to support their mental well-being.
1 in 5 went online to follow fitness programmes, health trackers or when feeling sad, anxious, or worried.
Online therapy services were used by 1 in 10 children and young people.
Girls were more likely than boys to access online support when looking up health symptoms or feeling negative emotions.