Children’s Media Lives



Our pioneering longitudinal study of children’s media and technology habits has highlighted a range of complex social issues to help Ofcom stay ahead of the game.


As part of Ofcom’s responsibility to promote media literacy, we were commissioned to understand children’s changing use of media and technology: annually tracking their usage patterns, needs and habits.

Previous studies had relied heavily on reported behaviour. We rectified this by studying children in their homes and natural social settings – using tailored techniques to encourage them to freely articulate their thoughts and experiences. This allowed us to overcome kids’ natural self-consciousness, or the need to say ‘what adults want to hear’.

Enjoyable co-research and self-complete tasks made children feel like they were really being listened to. We even stayed in touch between each wave – sending birthday cards and sharing project outputs (e.g. video profiles) to retain their enthusiasm.

All of this gave us a range of datasets to compare – validating and challenging what people told us. By rooting analysis in theories of child development, parenting and emotional / intellectual needs, we not only chronicled the specifics of media use but developed powerful new frameworks to help Ofcom address key issues – for example, the delicate balance between safeguarding and freedom.

The project has now just completed its fourth year – its insights continuing to inform the regulator’s work across a number of areas, with respondents’ lives brought to life through an evolving bank of film clips and imagery.