A new study from Ofcom reveals that children’s leisure habits are changing and online media consumption is on the rise.

The Guide looks at the results and what they mean for the future of the internet.

As parents of most children will know, it’s hard to tear them away from a screen. But we now know exactly how much time they’re spending on their gadgets, thanks to a new study by Ofcom.

For its Digital Day research, the media regulator asked 359 children to complete a digital diary for three days and contrasted the results with a sample of 1,644 adults.

The kids were split into two age groups, 186 primary school children (aged six to 11) and 173 secondary (aged 11 to 15).

The diary recorded any media they used, including TV, radio, computer games, phone calls, texting and browsing online, as well as reading magazines and books. It also measured concurrent use, so ‘second screen’ surfers playing on their iPad while watching TV are captured too.

As such, the results show that, by multi-tasking, primary school-age children pack an average of five and a half hours activity into five hours a day and by secondary level that figure jumps to nine and a half hours in a seven-hour span.

As you would expect, games are popular for kids, with 20 per cent of media time spent playing them on PCs and tablets compared to just five per cent for adults, while communicating, whether by email, text or social sites, leaps over the age of 11, from six per cent of total time to 22 per cent for the older age group.

So far, so predictable, but one revealing stat shows that while the ‘watching’ category is pretty consistent across all groups, around 30 to 50 per cent of total time, how the watching is done varies a lot.

The most popular viewing method still remains live TV, followed by recorded programmes and services like iPlayer, but there’s a sharp spike when it comes to short online videos, with 11-15-year-olds spending nearly 33 minutes a day watching these kind of clips on YouTube, Facebook and the like, versus five minutes for adults.

Similarly, the digital diaries reveal that live radio is far more relevant for grown-ups than it is for children, dropping from 71 per cent of total listening time for adults to just 21 per cent for the 11 to 15s. Plus, the latter spend far more time on Spotify or other streaming apps, as well as using music videos for background listening purposes.

Overall, the study paints a picture of children moving away from traditional TV and analogue activities to a more varied digital diet. The findings chime with recent comments by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that, within a decade, the majority of his social site’s content will be in video form. Zuckerberg isn’t alone; it’s a widely-held belief that, in future, video will dominate the online landscape, and Ofcom’s research supports that assertion.

The way things are going, the results of the Digital Day survey 2020 will probably be released solely on YouTube, with PDFs a distant memory of a simpler time.