One in three children in the UK now has their own tablet computer, which has nearly doubled in a year, new Ofcom research finds.
Among children aged between 5 and 15, 34% now have their own tablet, rather than using devices belonging to their parents or school, up from a fifth (19%) in 2013.
Six in ten (62%) children use a tablet at home, which has risen by half in a year (42% in 2013).
A sharp increase in tablet ownership among very young children means that some are using one to surf the web, play games and watch video clips before they join school. More than one in 10 children aged 3-4 now have their own tablet (11%, up from 3% in 2013).
Twice as many children aged 5-15 are using a tablet to go online (42% versus 23% in 2013), which could have implications in future use of laptops and PCs. For the first time, the proportion of children accessing the internet on a PC, laptop or netbook fell, by three percentage points, year on year, to 88%.
These trends are highlighted in Ofcom’s annual Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report, which examines children’s use of different media and communications, and the role parents play in overseeing them.
The popularity of the tablet could be contributing to the declining number of children with a TV set in their bedroom. This has decreased by a third over the past five years (from 66% in 2009 to 46% in 2014).
The proportion of children watching TV on a tablet has risen by a third in a year to 20% (up from 15% in 2013) while a third (33%) watch on-demand TV.
Despite the decline of TV sets in the bedroom, children still say that they would miss TV (34%) more than other popular devices (17% for mobile, 15% for tablets and 11% for games console). However, older children aged 12-15 are twice as likely to miss their mobile phone compared to TV (37% versus 18%).
Children aged 5-15 also spend more time watching TV every week (14.6 hours) than doing any other media activity, although there has been a decrease since 2013 when it was 15.4 hours.
Previous Ofcom research has found that families are coming together in the living room to watch bigger and better TVs, and use portable media devices like tablets and smartphones.
There has been a three-fold increase in a year in the number of children’s households with a ‘smart TV’ (from 13% in 2013 to 39%). Internet-enabled ‘smart TVs’ allow viewers access to a range on online services, such as catch-up TV. One in three children (31%) has a smartphone, stable since last year (29%).
The proportion of children with games consoles in their bedrooms has also declined over the past year (41%, down from 47% in 2013). Tablets are also becoming increasingly popular for games, with more children playing on this device (30%, up from 23% in 2013).
Over the past five years, the proportion of children that have radios in their bedroom has halved, down from 32% in 2009 to 14% in 2013. However, this has remained stable over the last year.