Uses by children in social networks

This report examines the use, attitudes and understanding of media among children and young people aged 3 to 17 in the UK.

A quarter of 3-year-olds in the UK have a social media profile. This is the result of a survey of parents by the British communications authority Ofcom in 2021. Although most social media sites set the recommended minimum age at 13, up to 80% of 12-year-olds have a profile, and as our infographic shows, less than a quarter of all are aged 3 and over. children included in the survey.

Referring to specific use of the platform, the Ofcom report states: “Children aged 8-11 were most likely to have profiles on TikTok (34%) and YouTube (27%). TikTok in particular is also gaining popularity among younger age groups; 16% of 3-4 year olds and 29% of 5-7 year olds use the platform.” Overall, YouTube is the most popular service among all children aged 3-17 (89% use it). While for some the video sharing platform may not be viewed as a traditional form of social media, TikTok is certainly attracted to 50% of 3-17 year olds in the UK in 2021.

The research also showed that only a third of parents knew the minimum age required to access social media. Additionally, among those whose profiles were under the minimum age, “significant minorities” of younger children reported creating their own social media profiles. As previously mentioned, most social media platforms have a net negative effect on adolescent mental health.

  • 28% of 5-7 year olds have their own mobile phone, 8-11 year olds 60% have their own mobile phone!
  • Almost all children went online in 2021 (99%); the majority used a mobile phone (72%) or a tablet (69%) for this purpose.
  • More than a third (36%) of primary school-age children still do not have access to a suitable device for online learning at home, compared to 17% of secondary school-age children. One in ten children of primary school age rarely or never had access to it (11%), compared to 3% in secondary (school) education.
  • Using video sharing platforms (VSPs) like YouTube or TikTok was the most popular online solution.
  • activity in children aged 3 to 17 (95%); while the majority chose to watch content on VSPs,
  • 31% posted content that they created themselves, particularly those aged 12-17.
  • Of all types of online platforms, YouTube has been the most used by children
  • 89% used this, compared to half on TikTok. But TikTok was more popular for posting content.
  • Kids still watch live TV but are more likely to watch on-demand streaming. 78% watched services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, compared to 47% who watched live TV.
  • Although almost six in ten teenagers say they use social media for information, it is the least reliable or accurate source of information. 12-15 year olds are more likely to trust their family (68%) or television (65%) when it’s about news.
  • Six out of ten children aged 3-17 played online games in 2021, up to three quarters of 12-17 year olds.

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