It seems the laptop has been deemed ‘so last year’ by the UK’s 10 to 15 year olds, as usage of smartphones has overtaken laptops for the first time among this age group*. New research from Mintel reveals that over three quarters (78%) of parents with children aged between 10 and 15 say their child uses a smartphone, up from 71% in 2014. In comparison, just 71% say their child today uses a laptop, down from 79% in 2014.

The rise of social media is likely to have contributed to young Brits turning-off their laptops, as Mintel research indicates that many use their phones to access social networking sites. Of teens and tweens** who use a smartphone, approaching three quarters (72%) have used the device to access a social media website or app, compared to just 36% who have accessed these sites on their laptops.

Despite age restrictions, it seems that social networks are widely used by Britain’s youngsters as 84% of 10 to 12 year olds use social media across all devices, slightly lower than the 95% of 13 to 15 year olds. Indeed, many are avid users of these sites as 59% of teen and tween users say they spend more than one hour a day on social media sites, rising to over two thirds (68%) of girls.

However, Mintel research highlights that parents hold strong concerns over their children’s use of social media sites. Three quarters (75%) of parents with children aged 10 to 15 are concerned that their child will be sent inappropriate content on social media, while 74% are worried about their child interacting with adults they don’t not know. Furthermore, two thirds (65%) are worried about their child being bullied on social media.

59% of teen and tween users say they spend more than one hour a day on social media sites

Rebecca McGrath, Media and Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The smartphone has become the centrepiece of media consumption for teens and tweens. With the vast majority using their smartphones to access social media sites, parents have numerous concerns regarding user interaction across social channels, as well as the content their children are able to access. Current age restrictions do not appear to be particularly effective, leaving young people exposed to issues such as cyber-bullying, inappropriate content and the possibility of interacting with dangerous strangers. Networks are therefore facing greater pressure from parents and legislature to take a more active role in ensuring that younger users are protected, for example with the introduction of strict age-based content filters.”

While parents hold concerns, the majority are taking steps to protect their children online. Three in five (60%) parents*** say that they monitor their child’s online browsing history, while 59% say that they try to monitor any posts their child makes on social media and 54% have enabled parental controls on a technology device by its settings.

Mintel research reveals that parents of younger children are particularly vigilant. Seven in 10 (70%) parents with children aged 10 to 12 say they monitor their child’s online browsing history, while 68% try to monitor the posts their child makes on social media and 63% have enabled parental controls on a device.

What’s more, there are differences in how parents of boys and parents of girls monitor activity. While boys are more likely to have their browsing history monitored, with 64% of parents of boys agreeing with this versus 57% of parents of girls, girls are more likely to have their social media activity tracked. Indeed, 62% of parents with girls say they try to monitor any posts their child makes on social media, compared to 56% of parents with boys.

On the other hand, it seems it’s not just social media activity that parents are tracking as one in five (19%) say they monitor their child’s location using GPS technology.

“Children are spending an increasing amount of time navigating the online world, leaving their parents looking for ways to protect them from potential dangers. Mintel research shows that beyond simply blocking inappropriate content, the majority of parents are choosing to monitor their children’s online habits, including their browsing history and social media posts, particularly if they are younger.” Rebecca adds.

While parents raise concerns about their child’s use of social media, Mintel research indicates that many teens and tweens are interested in age-based social networks.Over two in five (44%) children who use social media say that they would be interested in using a social media network that is only for kids their own age, rising to 49% of kids aged between 10 and 12. Additionally, 31% of 10 to 15 year olds who use social media say that they would be interested in a social media network that is only for kids at their school, rising to 42% of those aged between 10 and 12.

“Mintel research shows that there is a clear interest in child-only social media networks, particularly among 10 to 12 year olds who are not supposed to be using the major social networks. Therefore, more of the major social networks could leverage their current popularity and create a tween-specific version that limits users, monitors behaviour and removes inappropriate content.” Rebecca concludes.

*For the first time since Mintel has been tracking the market.
**Children aged 10-15.
***Parents with children aged 10 to 15 who use technology devices.

Press review copies of Mintel’s Teens’ and Tweens’ Technology Usage UK 2016 report and interviews with Media and Leisure Analyst Rebecca McGrath are available on request from the press office.

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