When you watch a kid using a touch screen device, it really is like getting a glimpse into the future. From the first time they pick a device up, kids seem to instinctively know how to use these devices – and they’re starting young.
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A 2013 US study Zero to Eight found that 38% of children under 2 had experience using a mobile device and that two thirds of children aged 0 – 8 had access to a smart mobile device in the their home. They also found that since 2011, “almost twice as many children have used mobile media …and the average amount of time children spend using mobile devices has tripled”.
So how are kids using mobile devices?
77% of Australians now own smart phones, and those who don’t are either very young or very old. Unsurprisingly, it’s the youngest demographic who are keenest to get their hands on them.
So what are kids doing when they get their hands on a parent’s smartphone?
Games are the most popular activity and smartphones are the most popular device, with tablets coming in a close second. Kids are spending half their time playing educational titles and the other half on ‘games that are just for fun’.
It’s also worth pointing out that ‘creative apps’ (for drawing, making music or videos) are also extremely popular, particularly with children over 2 years old.
App use increases in the 5 – 8 year old age group, presumably as kids improve their fine motor skills. Educational and creative apps dominate their activity, bearing out the fact that mobile devices are becoming major distribution platforms for educational media.
Educational media consumption as a whole
According to Zero to Eight, “by the time children are 5 – 8 years of age their use of mobile and computer devices for educational content increases so it is closer to the frequency of watching educational TV shows”.
However, frequency of use is one thing, but the amount of screen time is another. Television still dominates the educational screen life of children aged 0 – 8, accounting for approximately 50% of their total screen time. In addition, during the period 2011 – 2013, overall screen media consumption of children actually decreased.
The trends can be seen in the following chart taken from the Zero to Eight report:
Mobile devices have had spectacular growth during this period at the expense of every other media platform. Educational media platforms such as Leapster Explorer, and educational content delivered on handheld games consoles such as the Game Boy, PSP and Nintendo DS have been supplanted by educational apps on mobile devices.
Television still has the greatest reach of any delivery platform for children’s educational content and this is particularly so amongst lower income families in the US. However, smartphone and tablet ownership has increased dramatically amongst lower-income families over the past two years and this will drive further growth in educational media on mobile devices into the future.
So where to next?
Expectedly, kids are already heavily immersed in mobile devices, and the trend only looks to increase in this age group with every year, and every generation that follows. But how are teenagers using mobile devices?
Keep checking back – we’ll cover this in our next blog post.