A Grip on Media

A study of children’s and young people’s leisure activities in 2016, with an emphasis on media and physical activities

(In Finnish: Media hanskassa – lasten ja nuorten vapaa-aikatutkimus mediasta ja liikunnasta 2016)

Jani Merikivi & Sami Myllyniemi & Mikko Salasuo 


This publication examines the leisure activities of children and young people. The results are based on a total of 1,205 interviews carried out with young people aged 7–29 years who live in Finland. The publication is part of a biennial series of studies into the leisure activities of children and young people, which focuses on friendships, organisational activities and hobbies. The main theme for this study is various forms of media, but the study also focuses on physical exercise. 

When examining the relationship that young people have with media, five observations stand out: 

1) The smart phone is by far the most popular media device. Approximately 60 per cent of children have a smart phone when they start school, and almost all of them have one by the time they startsecondary school. 

2) The internet is becoming increasingly mobile. The smart phone is the device that children and young people use the most to access the internet – the majority of all young people over the age of 10 who took part in the survey estimated that most of their internet usage is done on a smart phone. Using the internet on a smart phone is particularly popular among girls. 

3) Young people use the internet in a versatile way, even though they do not see themselves as versatile users. The majority of young people feel that they spend a suitable amount of time accessing media. Young people spend most of their time online reading or watching content produced by others, which was a popular activity among all age groups that were included in the study. Other popular activities were searching for information as well as following current events and news. The interest in these activities increases with age. Taking part in private online discussions is part of young people’s everyday lives, and teenagers in particular are active in this area. Teenage girls also privately share pictures they have taken and videos they have filmed, while gaming is a typical activity for boys of the same age. Both of these activities become less popular with age. 

4) The internet occupies the top spot when it comes to watching television programmes and films, but traditional television with programmes being watched at scheduled times also remains popular. Video streaming services are most popular among 13–16-year-olds, particularly boys, while children and young adults in particular watch traditional television. The television also bridges generational gaps. Over two thirds of 7–9-year-olds said that they watch television with their parents. The amount of time spent watching television with parents declines in the teenage years, even though the television itself remains a meaningful pastime for young people. 

5) Children would like to play games with adults. The most common wish for children under the age of 10 when it comes to media is that they would like to play games with the adults in the family. Girls would also like to read more books together. These wishes should be acted upon, because young people become more independent as media users when they become teenagers. 

The section on physical exercise examines how common exercise is as a hobby, which forms of exercise are popular, and the reasons for not exercising. More than nine out of ten say that they exercise. All kinds of exercise among children and young people seems to be on the rise, as is regular fitness training. When analysing these results it is, however, necessary to take into account the fact that increased public debate on the low levels of exercise by children and young people has affected the attitudes of young people, and their parents, towards exercise and thus the young people’s responses to the survey. 

The section on physical exercise is showing signs of slow improvement regarding children and young people’s everyday exercise, but it also includes alarming short term signs regarding participation in sports clubs. All in all, a reduction in the amount of exercise, which is characteristic for teenagers, seems to have evened out in the past few years, but the number of young people who stop participating in sports clubs when they become teenagers has continued to grow. The most common age to stop is 15 years, but one in five 14-year-olds have already left their sports clubs. Particularly girls seem to quit their clubs at an increasingly young age. The survey also examined how much young people and their parents are prepared to pay for physical exercise as a hobby. By comparing the latest results with previous studies it was found that there are considerable differences between the sums people are prepared to pay, and the actual costs. These results show that a discussion on the costs of physical exercise as a hobby is definitely required.