Almost a quarter of three and four-year-olds own their own tablet and nearly half use one regularly, according to Ofcom’s latest research into children’s media and online lives.

Ofcom’s report, published annually, is based on around 3,500 interviews with children and parents and looks at the media habits of children, and the types of devices they are using.

The survey found that 24% of three and four-year-olds owned their own tablet, and 15% of them were allowed to take it to bed. In addition, 20% of this age group use mobile phones.

The survey also revealed the changing trends in the way young children access media, with 36% of children aged three and four watching TV on a tablet, up from 20% in 2015. YouTube is an increasingly popular choice for young children, with 51% of three and four-year-olds watching videos on the site, compared to 37% in 2016. More children watch videos on YouTube than on BBC, Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Parents and carers are becoming more likely to trust their children with greater digital independence at a younger age but far fewer believe the benefits of their child being online outweigh the risks than five years ago. Around two million parents now feel the internet does their children more harm than good and reported concerns over online safety and controlling screen time.

However, parents are now more likely than in 2018 to speak to their children about staying safe online, and are nearly twice as likely to go online themselves for support and information about keeping their children safe.

Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom, said:

“Today’s children have never known life without the internet, but two million parents now feel the internet causes them more harm than good.”

“So it’s encouraging that parents, carers and teachers are now having more conversations than ever before with children about online safety. Education and stronger regulation will also help children to embrace their digital independence while protecting them from the risks.”

The full report is available here.

Last reviewed 14 February 2020