Children’s Media Barometer 2013. Media uses of 0–8 year-old children and changes in media uses during the 2010s

Annikka Suoninen

The Children’s Media Barometer research carried out in 2013 explored the media uses of 0–8 year-old children and the role of media in interaction within the family. This report examines the research results dealing with children’s media uses. The research data were collected by means of a postal questionnaire sent to the guardians of 0–8 year-old children. The questionnaire was answered by a total of 921 guardians (response rate 31%).

Various media play a strong role in the daily lives of children starting from babyhood. The most important media content for children under 1 year old are music and children’s books that parents read aloud to them. Children start watching audiovisual programmes at 1–2 years of age, and use of the internet often begins at the same age as well because audiovisual programmes are widely followed on internet video services and on-demand programme services. Playing digital games becomes common at 2–4 years of age. Children start getting their own mobile phones at 5–6 years of age and almost all schoolchildren have their own mobile phone.

Almost all of the children read books, comics or magazines or these are read aloud to them. The tradition of a bedtime story seems to be very much alive in Finnish homes, as reading aloud almost daily took place for about 80 per cent of those under school age and two-thirds of school-age children. Reading comics became clearly more common with age: very few 0–4 year-old children read comics on a daily basis and less than one-fifth read them on a weekly basis, while a quarter of 5–6 year-olds and over one-third of 7–8 year-olds read comics almost every day.

Fifty-eight per cent of the children listened to the radio or music daily or almost daily, 82 per cent at least once a week. The differences between different age groups in listening to the radio and music were substantially smaller than in the case of audiovisual media and use of the internet. More than half of the children under 1 year of age listened to the radio or music almost daily, two-thirds of them at least weekly.

Ninety-three per cent of all 0–8 year-old children watched audiovisual programmes at least sometimes. One-quarter of the children under 1 year old, half of those 1 year old, 85 per cent of 2 year olds and more than 90 per cent of over 3 year olds watched audiovisual programmes daily or almost daily. Children watched audiovisual programmes most often on television or some other device at the time when the television programme was broadcast, but nearly half of the children also watched audiovisual programmes on internet services – most often internet video services (e.g. YouTube) and free on-demand programme services (e.g. Yle Areena) – on a weekly basis.

The internet is now a part of the lives of even the smallest children, as 93 per cent of all 0–8 year-olds used the internet at least occasionally, 59 per cent of them on a weekly basis and over a third almost daily. Use of the internet started at a very early age: half of the children under 1 year of age and 85 per cent of 1 year-old children used the internet at least occasionally, and nearly all of the children over 2 years of age used the internet. Forty per cent of the 0–2 year-olds, 60 per cent of the 3–4 year-olds, 66 per cent of the 5–6 year-olds and 79 per cent of the 7–8 year-olds used the internet weekly.

Among the youngest children, watching audiovisual programmes was clearly the most important use of the internet. After watching audiovisual programmes, playing games was the second most common use of the internet among the children. Forty-four per cent of children over the age of 3 played games on the internet weekly. Three-quarters of 3–8 year-old children visited internet pages aimed at children at least occasionally and one-fifth of the children visited them weekly. Eighteen per cent of school-age girls and 6 per cent of the boys used social networking services on a weekly basis.

Sixty-two per cent of all the 0–8 year olds played digital games at least occasionally and 45 percent at least once a week. Playing games was very clearly linked to the child’s age: one-fifth of the 0–2 year olds, one-third of the 3–4 year olds, two-thirds of the 5–6 year olds and 84 per cent of the 7–8 year olds played games weekly. One-third of the 5–6 year olds and half of the 7–8 year olds played games daily or almost daily. Playing digital games was the only use of media in which there was a clear difference between boys and girls: boys started playing a bit younger and played games more often than girls.

Aside from uses of other media, the survey also charted mobile phone ownership and the use of mobile phones. Having one’s own mobile phone started to become common already among 5 year-old children but children under this age usually do not have their own phones with the exception of one child who had just turned 1 year old and one 4 year old. One in ten 5 year-old children had his or her own mobile phone and among 6 year olds, this figure was already one in four. Two out of three 7 year olds and as much as 94 per cent of 8 year-old children had their own mobile phone. It seems that the first mobile phone is often acquired for a child in connection with the start of going to school.

The greatest change with regard to the results of the Children’s Media Barometer 2010 has occurred in the more widespread use of various internet services among young children, and the other changes in figures reflecting children’s media use are largely the consequence of the increasingly common use of the internet. A great change also took place in how small children use the internet: In 2010 the internet was used mainly for playing games, whereas in 2013 use of the internet is more often started by watching audiovisual programmes while playing games is only the second most common use of the internet. A substantial share of the audiovisual programmes watched has shifted to the internet. This has increased use of the internet especially among the younger children and has also levelled out the differences between girls and boys in the use of the internet.