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New trends in children's internet use

Research shows very young children using tablets, new online trends and safety issues

Posted by Sophie Beyer | February 07, 2017 | E-safety

A national pupil survey from 60 schools and 19,000 pupils by Naace and Catshills show new online trends and safety issues.

Catshill Learning Partnerships, along with education technology association, Naace, have announced that the results from a national survey of pupils’ internet use at home. 

The survey, which involved over 60 schools and over 19,000 pupils from across the UK, asked questions about the devices young people are using to get online. As expected, the results show that children of all ages are using a wide range of devices, but the figures for very young and primary children surprisingly revealed that over 60% of four to five-year-olds are using tablets to get online. The tablet is the online device of choice for primary children, but for secondary school-aged children, the smartphone is the most popular choice. 

The fact that so many four and five-year-olds are using smartphones and tablets to access what could be unfiltered content is a concern

 Key figures from the study show that:

  • Nearly half of four to seven-year-old children surveyed say they are using a smartphone to get online
  • 66% of Year 7 pupils and 89% of Year 10 pupils use a smartphone, which is the most popular method of accessing the internet 
  • Over half of six-year-olds use a laptop to get online
  • Games consoles are used mostly by 10 and 11-year-olds with three main platforms (Xbox, Playstation and Wii) being popular
  • A wide range of other connected devices were being used at home. The most popular devices in the ‘Internet of Things’ category were other consoles such as the Nintendo DS, heating controls, smart meters and portable media devices. Smart fridges and kettles were mentioned but less common.

Edtech and online safety consultant, Brett Laniosh, from Catshill Learning Partnerships said, “We now know that children are using a wide range of technology to get online at home, but the findings for younger children will surprise many. The fact that so many four and five-year-olds are using smartphones and tablets to access what could be unfiltered content is of concern and one that is echoed by the Children’s Commissioners report “Growing up Digital” released earlier this month. 

It is vital to speak with your children to find out what hardware they have access to and which ones are being used to access online content - Brett Laniosh, from Catshill Learning Partnerships

 “We would encourage schools to find out what devices their pupils are using at home and then compare their results with the national average.” Brett added, “I would also encourage schools to heed the advice of the Children’s Commissioner and establish Digital Leaders in school to get young people involved with the delivery of online safety education. For parents, it is vital to speak with your children to find out what hardware they have access to and which ones are being used to access online content. The discussion should also cover whether they are being used appropriately, for example protecting personal privacy and spending an appropriate amount of time using them.”

 Mark Chambers, Naace CEO, said, "Naace members like Brett are deeply engaged at a local level with schools and their communities. We would do well to take heed of this survey's finding, add it to the finding of BESA that teachers feel insufficiently trained and make it a national priority to both educate and protect our young people as they become the next generation of (digital!) citizens".

​To view the survey results click here.

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