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Published on November 27th, 2018 | by The GC Team

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More screens, more devices, more noise, less engagement

Technology and kids: An Audio Collaborative event held by Futuresource Consulting in London this month revealed the latest analysis from Kids Tech, Futuresource’s ongoing monitoring into how children consume media and interact with devices.

Addressing conference attendees, Carl Hibbert, Associate Director at Futuresource, focused on the UK segment of the research and cross-referenced US, German, and Chinese markets to provide an international perspective.

“Over the nine waves of research, carried out across a five-year timeframe, we’ve seen the immersive nature of technology become diluted,” said Hibbert. “In the UK, 94% of children aged three to 16 now own or share a TV, 74% a mobile phone and 73% a tablet. This influx of screens means engagement is being impacted. More than a quarter of kids are watching a TV while simultaneously watching video on another device.

“Moreover, nearly one in six children are actually listening to music while watching TV. Although there seems to be incompatibility between the two media, we’ve tracked the behaviour over the last five years and not only is it happening, it’s on the increase. It prompts the question, ‘how engaged are they on either device?’, and this is presenting headaches for content owners, service providers and ad agencies alike.

Beyond handheld devices, children are now growing up in homes where voice command technology is ingrained into their daily lives. Voice assistants and smart speakers are on the increase, and a sizeable percentage of children are using them to perform a range of tasks, from requesting music to setting reminders, fact checking and telling jokes. The latest wave of Kids Tech research reveals that, from an early age, children are extremely aware of the full capabilities of voice technology and how to use it.

Kids Tech is a twice-yearly programme of primary research from Futuresource Consulting, carried out with children aged from three to 16, across seven countries, with a sample size of 1,400 in each territory. Now in its fifth year, the study has also monitored how children’s weekly routines have changed, comparing 20 different activities and how the time spent on each is changing.

“Traditional toy play and reading books are still important in the daily lives of children,” said Hibbert, “but watching mobile video has started to skyrocket. Additionally, over the last two waves of Kids Tech research, there’s been a huge shift to online free video, moving away from traditional telly watching.

“Free video consumption is the place where kids are beginning to make their purchase decisions too, turning to child vloggers to watch reviews and evaluate their choice of future toys.”

The research also looked at online supervision, safety and strategies, and concluded that parents continue to approach online cautiously, with over 70% of them supervising internet usage of their three- to four-year-olds, dropping away to 12% of 15- to 16-year-olds. In China, close to three quarters of parents cite strong or very strong concerns for their child’s digital safety. Western markets show a more relaxed approach, with a quarter of parents stating minimal concerns.

“With so much noise from multiple device usage, combined with parents imposing time restrictions on online activity and the industry seeking to reduce time spent on social media and online, it’s a triple threat for content owners,” said Hibbert. “Therefore, the burgeoning strategies for the industry are no longer based around the volume of consumption, but the quality of the consumption. As all quarters begin to align on digital health, we’re beginning to see a safer, more pleasurable, more improved user environment for kids.” 

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