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Technology and Children’s Screen-Based Activities in the UK: The Story of the Millennium So Far

Abstract

Much has changed over recent years in the technology that children use in their daily lives. The impact of these changes on children's time in screen-based activities has been the source of much debate and concern. Yet we know very little about change in children's daily time in screen-based activities, including their time using devices such as smartphones and tablets. Using data from two nationally representative UK Time Use Surveys 2000–01 and 2014–15, this paper presents a detailed study of change in children's (8–18 years) daily time in screen-based activities (TV, videogames, and computers), together with the latest data on their time using computers and mobile devices throughout the day. We find that children's screen-based activities increased by around half an hour between 2000 and 2015, but that this was concentrated among boys who increased their time playing videogames. Dwarfing this, however, was the additional time children spent using computers and mobile devices when engaging in other activities throughout the day, especially for girls. Multivariate analysis of factors associated with children's screen-based activities revealed that gender differences in children's time playing videogames widened significantly over this period, while socio-economic differences in children's screen-based activities remained fixed. This study highlights how children are combining old and new technologies in their daily lives, and points to issues for future developments in the measurement of children's engagement in screen-based activities to aid in assessing the impact of technology on children's well-being.

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Notes

  1. http://www.digitaldayresearch.co.uk/home/

  2. All estimates from Ofcom’s Digital Day were obtained using http://www.digitaldayresearch.co.uk/decks/deck-creator/

  3. There are few instances of this and this restriction serves to avoid any double counting.

  4. As weights are applied, weekly estimates can be derived by multiplying daily estimates by seven.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (Award ES/LO11662/1) and the European Research Council (Project 339703).

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Correspondence to Killian Mullan.

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Mullan, K. Technology and Children’s Screen-Based Activities in the UK: The Story of the Millennium So Far. Child Ind Res 11, 1781–1800 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-017-9509-0

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Keywords

  • Change in screen-based activities
  • Children and technology
  • Gender
  • Digital divide
  • Time use data