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Tablets becoming UK kids' must-have item

The latest in-depth study on British families' media use and consumption shows that all other devices are making way for tablets.

business Updated: Oct 05, 2013 14:16 IST

The latest in-depth study on British families' media use and consumption shows that all other devices are making way for tablets.

The good news for parents worried about the effects that LCD screens are having on their offspring? According to the latest report from Ofcom (the UK's official media regulator), which will be officially published on October 7, children are turning their backs on phones. However they're ditching them in favor of tablets.

The report into British consumers' media consumption habits, entitled "Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes," finds that for the first time, mobile phone ownership among five-to-15-year-olds is dropping (43% in 2013 compared with 49% in 2012) -- suggesting that for the final generation of feature phone owners, the handsets are being ditched in favor of a slate rather than a smartphone.

Because, at the same time, tablet usage among the same age group is continuing to grow. Indeed the use of tablets has tripled over the past 12 months (42% versus 14% in 2012). This spike in growth also coincides with a decline in the number of children who have access to TVs, radios and games consoles in their bedrooms.

It appears that tablets, better than any other device, tap into the way that children access and interact with internet-based content and entertainment, particularly streaming videos and gaming.

For older children (12-to-15-years-old) the smartphone is still king with 62 % of children in this category owning a handset. On average, children in this age group put peer-to-peer communication above all else, sending 184 instant messages every week. What's more, the device is also their favorite for accessing social media sites.

But even within this older group, the tablet is starting to take hold with 26 % either owning one or having access to a communal family device (up from 7% in 2012).

Perhaps worryingly, the percentage of preschool children that use tablets is also on the rise. More than one in four (28%) of three-to-four-year-olds use a tablet in the home as do 39 % of five-to-seven-year-olds and 44 % of eight-to-11-year-olds.

All of which leads Ofcom to conclude: "Tablet computers are growing fast in popularity, becoming a must-have device for children of all ages."

A quantitative tracking survey conducted in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the report is compiled via a combination of historical data from other Ofcom studies plus in-depth in-home interviews with 2374 British families.

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