Once kids get smartphone, it becomes their favourite activity, says study


A study carried out by VRT shows that children up to age 10 are most interested in ‘playing’, while from age 11, they take to digital devices

TV down the list

Until they are 10, children are happiest playing outside, but from the age of 11, the majority of children in Flanders have their own smartphone, and it soon becomes their favourite activity. This is one of the findings of the five-yearly Mediakids survey by broadcaster VRT’s Study Service.

VRT questioned more than 1,000 children aged from two to 15 and their parents to learn about their experience of technology and the media. Children use their parents’ smartphones and tablets from a very young age, but the biggest change takes place when they go to secondary school.

“Three-quarters of 11- and 12-year-olds say they have their own smartphone and that it plays an important role in their life,” says Thijs Vanderhaegen, head of the Study Service. By the age of 13 or 14, practically every child has their own smartphone.

Having their own device opens up a world of social media channels to young people. “Among 13- to 15-year-olds, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube have a very, very prominent place in children’s lives,” says Vanderhaegen. Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular among teenagers, with YouTube a hit among children of all ages.

Variety of platforms

As well as the significant use of smartphones, all the surveyed parents and children indicated that they also widely use tablets. Television remains popular, too, but smartphones are children’s favourite device from the age of about 11.

Among children under 10, playing is their most popular pastime, whether board games, playing outside or with toys. From the age of 11, most children have a phone and say that they most enjoy watching films on YouTube or using social media. Older children, however, also list playing outside among their favourite activities, in the form of organised sports or groups such as Scouts.

As the media landscape changes, it is not necessarily easy to reach children as viewers and keep their attention. Children’s channel Ketnet has created a variety of platforms on which viewers can watch its programmes, including the daily news show Karrewiet, which is aimed at a young audience and is often broadcast in schools.

“We no longer see Ketnet as a TV channel, but rather as a media brand for children that they use on whatever platform,” says network manager Maarten Janssen. “Karrewiet gets a lot of viewers; whether that is online or on television makes no difference to us. As long as children are becoming more informed.”

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