OFCOM Media Use & Attitudes 2015 – Overview
An ofcom report published last week looked at media use and attitudes and made interesting reading for us at Fundamentally Children HQ. Much of it supports our own research and understanding but there are some headline grabbing stats that warrant further scrutiny.
Stats such as the average number of screen hours per week for 3-4 year olds being over 25 (that’s over 3.5 hours every day) can seem alarming, but in our opinion, it’s much more about what the children are doing whilst on screen time and what else they are doing to balance their play diet. There is a big difference between children playing actively/socially with tech or using it to support schoolwork and when they are spending hours passively watching vacuous programmes or playing mindless games. There’s also the matter of what else children are doing with their time. If the time that they are not on the screens is spent in active, imaginative play then 3 or 4 varied sessions of screen based play is nothing to be too concerned about. If children are largely sedentary with few free play opportunities, we’d encourage parents to be more cautious with screen time as it’s important that it doesn’t become the default activity as children’s use of screens increases as they get older.
Parents are more concerned about their children’s use of the internet than video games or television, showing that not all screen time is viewed equally. The concern over the internet is highest for the 8-11 year old age bracket. In our work, we’ve found that parents are particularly worried about children finding scary/inappropriate content on the internet because they are given more freedom online and are more likely to be curious about adult issues. Parents of younger children often assume (mistakenly in our opinion) that the youngsters either won’t be searching the internet for answers to confusing issues, and/or wouldn’t understand adult content if they found it. Parents concern about their children’s use of the internet seems to be on the rise too but many parents are reluctant to engage with schools on eSafety issues.
Several schools we work with report that internet safety workshops are more poorly attended than other parenting support initiatives, but if parents are increasingly concerned, maybe schools should look at other ways to support them in ensuring safe use of the internet at home. An interesting finding from the report is that the vast majority of parents of children of all ages trust their own child to use the internet safely. Therefore, they may feel that whilst they are concerned about the internet in general, they don’t think their child will engage in risky behaviour online. We encourage parents to employ some simple rules to both help keep the children behaving responsibly online and help parents identify any issues before they become huge problems.
- Insist on knowing your child’s password to any mobile devices as a condition of them having the device in the first place
- If they’re old enough to have social media, befriend them – don’t comment or embarrass them but this will help them to not post anything on social media that they wouldn’t be happy for you to see.
- Encourage open discussion about internet use and don’t allow children to be secretive about their online activity
- Don’t allow screens of any kind in the bedroom after lights out.
However, the vast majority of parents believe that the benefits of the internet outweigh the risks (another reason why parents may not feel the need to attend eSafety sessions)
Reassuringly, it seems that parents are taking the advice to reduce access to media in the bedrooms, although of those children who do have access to media in their bedrooms and increasing number have internet access. This is one of the first pieces of advice we give to parents who are concerned about their children’s sleep, schoolwork, internet use, or screen time. Take media out of the bedroom at bedtime and ensure that children are not tempted to let it interfere with their much needed sleep.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer