I am quite an observing person. I watch people everywhere I go – on the street, in any random store, in the train, on festive occasions, you name it, I watch (of course in a very subtle and not at all obtrusive way:). I see this curiosity of mine as a gift that helps me better understand the world around me and more importantly the people in it.
One of the things that really drew my attention of lately is the amount of people, who spend their days in companionship with all different kinds of digital devices. No matter, what time of the day, no matter where I look, people are occupied with their smart phones, mp3 players, laptops, ereaders, and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I also see a lot of people talking with each other and engaging in real-life social activities. Live just has become a lot more digital, more mediated, and more interconnected.
Now, it’s up to us that we take this development and turn it into something positive. This is where the user experience comes into the picture. There are a lot of UX folks out there that take on the challenge of our digital age, making it more convenient for us.
Here is the problem. They make stuff more convenient for us – only for us, us as adults. But what about kids? One of the main reasons that I started UXkids is the steady increase in media use at always younger ages. That’s also something that I observed on many different occasions. At the same time, there is quite some research available showing the exact same thing. According to Always connected, a report from the non-profit organizations Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop, “children have more access to all kinds of digital media, and are spending more time during the day with them than ever before.”
Kids use more media than you think. Here are some facts:
- At age 3, about one-quarter of the children in the US go online on a daily basis.
- At age 5, about half of the kids in the US go online on a daily basis.
- Between 5 and 8 years of age, more than 50% of the children in the US with access to mobile devices also used them.
- In the Netherlands, 88% of all households have at least one computer, and 45% have a tablet.
- In the Netherlands, tablets are used by 66% of the children (0-7 years).
- In the Netherlands, smartphones are used by 23% of the children (0-7 years).
Let’s take a look at some research on what kind of media children use, how often they use it.
What kind of media do kids use in 2013?
Popular media has evolved quite a bit over the last decades. While there used to be only movies, print media, and radio, now, there is a quickly growing list of very diverse media to choose from. Among many, the most recent ones are mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. As media itself changes, so do the media habits of young children.
How media use evolved over the decades. Click to enlarge image. (Source)
How much media do kids use in 2013?
Looking at the internet usage, it is quite amazing really, how young kids are when they first go online. Already at age 3, about one-quarter of the children in the US go online on a daily basis. This means some of them even start when they are even younger. By the time children are 5 years old, about half of them go online every day and it becomes more as they grow older.
Different studies that show the percentage of different media use by different age groups in the US. (Source)
Note that due to the lack of more recent data, these studies date all the way back to 2006, leaving out the most recent development of different mobile devices.
Mobile media access in the US by income. (Source)
The research study Zero to Eight – Children’s Media Use in America conducted in 2011, shows how many percent of the children between 0 and 8 years of age have access to mobile media. Looking at a yearly income between 30-75 000 USD, 41% had access to smartphones, 20% to a video iPod or similar, and 6% to an iPad or other tablet. Considering that prices keep dropping for mobile devices, we can expect a lot more kids to have access to mobile devices by now.
Mobile media use in the US by age. (Source)
Here is how many kids used mobile devices in the US in 2011 if they had access to them. Between 0 and 1 years, 10% used mobile devices, between 2 and 4 years, 39% used them and between 5 and 8 years even more than 50% of the kidd engaged with mobile devices.
For a more recent impression, let’s take a look at a similar study that was conducted in 2012 in the Netherlands by Mijn Kind Online.
Media use in the Netherlands by children between 0 and 7 years of age. (Source)
This table shows how many percent of the kids use different media if these media are available in their homes. Here you can see that kids make use of different devices with internet access, such as tablets, desktop computers, notebooks, or smartphones. The tablet is used by 66% of the children, while gaming computers are used by as much as 84%. Smartphones are already used by 23% of the kids between 4 and 7 years of age that have access to one.
Distribution of different media in Dutch households with children between 0 and 7 years of age. (Source)
Not all children have access to the same media. Availability of different media is influenced by different factors, such as a family’s financial situation, the general interest in media, or the believe that not all media is good for their children. However, in 2012, 88% of all households had at least one computer, 75% had at least one smartphone, and 45% had at least one tablet.
Dutch average of media use per day for kids between 0 and 7 years of age. (Source)
This graph shows the average time that children between 0 and 3 years of age and those between 4 and 7 years of age spend per day per medium. Television is still the most popular one. However, different research shows that 36% of the children between 2 and 11 years engage in multitasking, which means they use the internet while watching television. Kids (0-7 years of age) spend between 9 and 18 minutes per day using a computer or laptop, they use a tablet between 12 and 16 minutes per day and smartphones for about 6 minutes.
Media use increase over time
In the US, another very interesting study was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, called: Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, 2010. Again, the data was already gathered in 2009 and does not include mobile devices. Still, the results are interesting and allow for implications about today’s situation. Also, the study was focussed on kids and teens between 8 and 18 years of age and. Let’s see it as supplement, not as comparison material for the insights offered above.
Media use is increasing drastically over time. (Source)
The research shows that the overall media use per day of kids between 8 and 18 years of age increased significantly over time. Between 1999 and 2004, the average time spent on media per day increased by an hour. Between 2004 and 2009 it even increase by more than 2 hours. With the rise of mobile devices and social media, we can expect it to have increased even more between 2009 and now, leaving kids in that age group today with more than 11 hours of media exposure per day.
Kids deserve a better user experience, too
Kids also use media. And they so at always earlier ages and with increasing regularity. There is no way around this fact. Also, there is no way around the fact that they need digital products that have a positive impact on their development. So let’s start to focus on creating more valuable experiences for kids.
- Always connected, 2010, a report from the non-profit organizations Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop, which was assembled using data from seven different studies on young children and their ownership and use of media.
- Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, 2010, a research series by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- iene miene media, 2011, a comprehensive research by Mijn Kind Online on the media usage of Dutch children between 0 and 7 years of age.
- Zero to Eight – Children’s Media Use in America, a Common Sense Media Research Study, 2011.