Children and young people online: increasing usage time, mixed experiences

Children come in contact with tablets and smartphones at an earlier age, and the online time for young people has also increased to 111 minutes a day. Children and young people describe their experiences as mixed. This was the result of a representative survey from Bitkom industry association.

Bitkom CEO Dr. Based on the results of the study, Bernhard Rohleder advocates early media education for young people through their parents: “They must be followed and instructed at an early stage so that they can act safely and independently in the digital world.” Because children and young people nowadays “grow up with smartphones and the internet for granted.” However, parents should not be left alone with this task. Rohleder also sees that kindergartens and schools have a duty here.

According to Bitkom, almost all children and young people between the ages of six and 18 use a smartphone or tablet (98 percent). Even younger children between the ages of six and nine use at least one of these devices (95 percent). Using smartphones and tablets, children and young people spend an average of almost two hours a day on the Internet. Time online increases with age.

Children between the ages of six and nine spend an average of 49 minutes a day on the Internet, and children between the ages of 10 and 12 spend an hour and 27 minutes a day on the Internet. Young people aged 13 and over stayed on the Internet for more than two hours, 13- to 15-year-olds for two hours and 20 minutes. 16 to 18 year olds get two hours and 46 minutes.

In most cases, children and young people are already browsing on their own devices. Overall, every second person between the ages of six and 18 owns a tablet (50 percent). 36 percent of children aged six to nine years already have their own tablet, from the age of ten the number increases to more than half. Smartphone ownership also increases with age: While 21 percent of six- to nine-year-olds have their own cell phone, the figure is 86 percent among 10- to 12-year-olds. 95 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds have their own device. If you look at all children and young people between the ages of six and 18, 71 percent own a smartphone.

Tablets are used a little more by younger children. 85 percent of 10- to 12-year-olds use tablets, compared with 74 percent of 16- to 18-year-olds. Smartphone use increases markedly with age. 66 percent of children between the ages of six and nine use smartphones, while the figure for those aged 10 to 12 is already 92 percent. From the age of 12, there is hardly a child without a smartphone.

Tablet use decreases with age, and smartphone use increases.

(Image: Bitkom)

According to Bitkom, the contact with digital end devices and media begins earlier and earlier in a long-term comparison. In 2014, only 20 percent of six- to seven-year-olds occasionally used a smartphone; the current figure is 64 percent. Among the 10 to 11-year-olds, the proportion of users has increased from 57 percent in 2014 to 87 percent in 2022. Mobile phone use is also more pronounced today among 16- to 18-year-olds and has increased from 88 percent (2014) another nine percentage points to 97 percent.

Children and young people between the ages of 10 and 18 spend most of their time on the Internet chatting or streaming video. More than eight out of ten children and young people send chat messages at least occasionally (86 percent) and watch movies, series and the like (83 percent) on the Internet – YouTube is used especially for this (82 percent). 71 percent listen to radio or music and 69 percent seek information about school or education. Six out of ten play online games (61 percent). Four out of ten children and young people from the age of 10 become acquainted with current political, economic or social news (38 percent). About a quarter shop online (23 percent).

Among social networks, access to Meta’s Instagram also increases with age. Just over half (54 percent) of the 10- to 18-year-olds are active there. Of the 10-12-year-olds, however, it is initially only 17 percent – here the required minimum age on Instagram should also limit the use – among 13-15-year-olds the value is already 60 percent and among 16-year-olds – for 18-year-olds it rises to 84 percent.

For TikTok, there is a reverse user interest. Although half (50 percent) of 10- to 18-year-olds use the platform, interest decreases with age. Nearly two-thirds of 13- to 15-year-olds (63 percent) use the video platform, but only half (52 percent) of seniors between the ages of 16 and 18.

Interest in Meta’s Facebook and Twitter platform is markedly lower: Only 12 percent of 10- to 18-year-olds use Twitter and 11 percent use Facebook. From 3 percent and 4 percent among 10-12-year-olds, respectively, the numbers among 16-18-year-olds are rising to 21 percent for Twitter and 17 percent for Facebook.

WhatsApp dominates the communication between SMS services and messenger apps. Here, 82 percent of 10- to 18-year-olds often send text, picture or voice messages, and another 10 percent sometimes. In this age group, 23 percent use the iPhone-based service iMessage, at least sometimes Skype is used as well (20 percent). Other services like Facebook Messenger (twelve percent) or Telegram (eight percent) are used by very few.

Children and young people’s experiences on the Internet are mixed. While 68 percent of 10- to 18-year-olds praise that they can exchange ideas with friends or class there, and 64 percent also use the Internet to acquire knowledge, 45 percent of young people have already had bad experiences. For example, 19 percent of them saw content that scared them. About one in six (17 percent) have already been abused or bullied online – among 12- to 13-year-olds, nearly a quarter (23 percent) say they have been bullied or insulted online. 12 percent of 10- to 18-year-olds say lies have been spread about them.

Among the interviewees, girls in particular are affected by sexual harassment. Nearly every tenth girl between the ages of 10 and 18 has been sexually harassed online by peers (nine percent), every twentieth girl by adults (five percent). On the other hand, far fewer of the boys surveyed stated that they had been sexually harassed on the Internet (one percent and two percent, respectively).

According to the study, parental support and control over media use decreases sharply with age. Three-quarters (76 percent) of 6- to 9-year-olds and 58 percent of 10- to 12-year-olds are only allowed to be online for a certain period of time. This is still true for 3 out of 10 (30 percent) of 13- to 15-year-olds, but only 5 percent of 16- to 18-year-olds. Parental interventions include time limits for use and in some cases a complete online ban (31 percent).

As reported by Bitkom, only 59 percent of parents explain to their children and young people what is and is not allowed online. Parents especially address posting of private content with their 12- to 15-year-old offspring (75 percent). In general, however, only one-third (34 percent) of parents regularly talk to their children about their online experiences.

At the same time, many children and young people say that they respect their privacy. 69 percent of 10 to 18-year-olds who use at least one social network know how to actively change their privacy settings there. 22 percent know that such attitudes exist but do not know how to change them. Only 6 percent are unaware of the possibility. Anyone who knows how to do it will then make use of it: 83 percent of children and young people with the relevant prior knowledge have already actively changed their privacy settings.

Privacy is not a foreign concept to many young people.

(Image: Bitkom)

More than 900 children and adolescents between the ages of six and 18 were interviewed for the representative study. The information is based on self-declaration from children and young people, with the younger ones in the presence of their parents. The study was conducted by Bitkom Research, a subsidiary of Bitkom.


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