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How Digital Are Kids Today?

Quality of access is an issue for many kids in lower-income families

November 28, 2016 | Advertising & Marketing | Demographics | Mobile

Many kids become internet users before they learn how to walk. But even as the age at which kids get a smartphone creeps downward, most lack one of their own, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “US Kids and Digital: Gauging How Digital These Digital Natives Really Are” (eMarketer PRO customers only).

Monthly Media Reach Among US Children, Teens & Millennials, by Age, Q2 2016 (% reach)

eMarketer estimates that 61.6% of kids ages 0 to 11 will use the internet at least once a month in 2016—lower than the rate for teens and most adults, but substantial for a cohort that includes babies.

Naturally, usage is more common among older kids. In a May 2016 survey by KidSay among 8- to 11-year-olds, 51.0% of boys and 45.7% of girls said they use the internet “many times a day.” Another 15.2% of boys and 23.1% of girls reported using it once a day.

Even in the mobile era, significant numbers of kids go online via computer. In its latest “Total Audience Report,” covering Q2 2016, Nielsen identified 26% of 2- to 11-year-olds as at-least-monthly users of the internet via desktop/laptop computers.

For some kids, internet usage is constrained because their families lack strong access. That was the focus of a February 2016 report by Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney Center, based on polling the previous spring among parents of kids ages 6 to 13 and with income below the US median. While 94% had “some kind of internet access,” 23% had mobile-only access. Among families in this income bracket who had home access, 20% said their internet “has been cut off in the last year due to lack of payment.” As for those with mobile-only internet access, 29% had hit the data limit on their plan during that period; 24% had had service cut off for lack of payment.

Preferred Device for Watching Videos According to US Child Internet Users, 2014-2016 (% of respondents)

Income aside, digital access does not mean kids shun TV sets. Nielsen’s Q2 2016 report showed 2- to 11-year-olds averaged 19 hours 15 minutes per week watching live and DVR/time-shifted TV. This is consistent with what Ipsos Connect found in February 2016 when asking 6- to 12-year-olds to identify their preferred device for watching video. Sixty-seven percent chose the TV set. However, the proportion picking it was down by 13 percentage points from 2014.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “US Kids and Digital: Gauging How Digital These Digital Natives Really Are.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer PRO customers.

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