Third of pre-schoolers now have their own tablet

Rather than using brand new equipment, toddlers are largely benefiting from digital hand-me-downs

A growing number of children under five have their own digital device, according to a new independent study exploring the world of toddlerhood.

The latest figures from the CHILDWISE Pre-school Report 2017 show that more than half of three to four-year olds now have a tablet or laptop of their own. All but a few have regular access to an assortment of digital devices.

“Pre-schoolers have become accustomed to borrowing or sharing connected devices such as tablets; it is an everyday occurrence for many of them., says CHILDWISE Research Manager, Jenny Ehren. “But in recent years we have seen a noticeable shift towards personal ownership, which in turn has resulted in far fewer under-fives pestering their parents for access to mobile phones or games consoles.”

Seven out of ten under-fives have access to either a tablet or computer at home, according to the new data. Meanwhile, fewer than a third seek out entertainment on a mobile phone.

The report reveals that most children are already competent users of touch screen technology by the age of three to four. This age group can open apps they want to use, use them independently, adjust volume controls and take photos on a device with relative ease.

Children love pretending to be like grown ups. They mirror the behaviour of those around them, with many able to navigate an iPad like a pro,” says Jenny. “When the time comes to upgrade parents appear more willing to hand down older devices to their children, considering them a great way to keep small children entertained and provide a learning benefit.”

The number of pre-schoolers who can name a favourite app has soared since 2012, with video-on-demand apps such as YouTube and branded character apps such as Peppa’s Paintbox,frequently topping the list. This rapid take-up and usage by such small children reveals how important truly intuitive technology now is.

The report also shows how pre-school children and their parents are increasingly focusing their viewing attention towards on-demand services.

More than four out of five households now use these to some extent, with YouTube further consolidating its position as the most popular destination for video-on-demand services, albeit dropping slightly as its specialist app, YouTube Kids, gathers pace and splits the YouTube audience. Netflix is the top subscription-based service for the third year running, strengthening its position ahead of other paid-for services such as Sky.

By age three to four, the majority of pre-schoolers are using video-on-demand services to access TV shows, giving them a much broader choice of content and expanding their list of favourite shows. Specialist YouTube channels now feature in the mix, whilst long-established favourites are increasingly under threat.

Pre-schoolers account for around a third of all children under the age of 16. “The behaviours and habits children are exposed to at an early age become the behaviours and habits they carry into adulthood” says Jenny. The way in which pre-schoolers engage with content and brands has changed—significantly—and it won’t be changing back. Constant access to technology is here to stay, and pre-schoolers are keeping up with the pace.”

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