Children Watching Less Television For The First Time In Years

Gone are the days when children used to rush home from school to catch their favorite program on television. Most children wouldn’t even know how to navigate a traditional TV guide these days. Rather than being ruled by network programming, today’s kids are taking their viewing experience into their hands.

With the rise of digital video recorders (DVRs) and subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix, on-demand viewing and binge-watching have become the norm. As DVR use plateaus, however, subscription video-on-demand continues to rise. Which means more children than ever are choosing the internet over television.

Regardless of whether they prefer Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, children are drawn to technology that provides immediate access to their favorite shows. A UK study found that children between the ages of five and 15 spent an average of three hours on the internet and two hours watching television every day. A subsequent study found that youth between the ages of 13 and 24 spent just over 12 hours per week on YouTube and social media, plus an additional 8.8 hours per week on Netflix and other subscription on-demand mediums. This equates to watching two and a half times more internet video than television. Both 2016 studies marked the first time in history that youth spent more time on the follow-up than in front of the television.

This newfound shift in viewing preferences prompts a follow up question regarding what children and youth are watching online and what this means for the television industry.

What Are Children Watching?

Currently, an astounding 50 percent of households have some form of subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. This means children have more access than ever to on-demand content.

Aside from binge-watching series using on-demand services, children are also utilizing free online media more than ever before. Half of the children involved in the UK study stated that they accessed YouTube every single day and nearly all of them used it at least occasionally. The most common types of videos accessed included music videos, how-to tutorials, and funny videos. When asked what prompted children to use various forms of media, they often cited they used it primarily as a stress reliever or boredom killer.

While this shift in viewing culture doesn’t necessarily mean that the future of television is doomed, it does mean that the television industry must change in order to meet the standards of the new ‘on-demand’ generation.

As children and youth increasingly seek the content of their own choosing, rather than relying on what is offered on cable, they are redefining the viewing experience. However, rather than focusing on the decreased amount of television children are watching it may be more important to determine how much media in total they are consuming. As children turn away from the television, they turn inward towards handheld devices like tablets and smartphones, meaning parents have less control over what is being consumed.

In an era where children are often more technology literate than their parents, it is crucial to keep an eye on their technology consumption, particularly since the primary medium moves out of the living room and into more private areas of the house.

Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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