Young children's media use and parents' attitudes in Iceland

  • Awareness
  • 27/02/2018
  • Icelandic Safer Internet Centre

With the ever-increasing role of internet connected devices in the daily lives of people during recent years, the need has grown for research on media use of the youngest children. Smartphones and tablets have become common and tablets are preferred by little fingers. The aim of this study was to provide an overview of the media use of 0-to-8 year olds in Iceland and their parents' attitudes towards that use.

A stratified, random sample of 2,000 children in this age span from the whole country was the basis for the study. Email addresses were found for parents of 1,448 children and they were contacted with an introductory letter and a request to fill in a web questionnaire based on the Swedish Media Council's questionnaire used since 2010 (Statistics Sweden, 2015). The response rate of those who received the questionnaire was 59.4 per cent, with 860 valid responses. The results suggest that the likelihood of ownership of different devices for media use is higher from the age of five. This is evident in the case of smartphones and tablets, as a quarter of 5-8 year olds have their own smartphone and/or a tablet. In the age group 2-4 years, 10 per cent have their own tablet, but 62 per cent share such a device with others in the family, and 56 per cent of 0-1 year olds share a tablet with others in their family.

The tablet is most often used for listening to music and watching videos and films. In the age group of 0-1 years, one third uses the tablet at some point. In the age group 2-4 years, this percentage is 71 per cent, and 92 per cent in the age group 5-8 years. The most popular activity is watching a movie or a TV show, as over 90 per cent of 2-8 year olds do that at some point, and 62 per cent of 0-1 year olds. Three quarters of the youngest children (0-1 years) never use the internet but 4 per cent in this age group use it daily. A small percentage of the children are heavy users according to the definition of the Swedish Media Council of using a medium for three hours or more daily. Two per cent of 5-8 year olds play computer games for three or more hours daily, and 2 per cent of 2-4 year olds use the internet for three or more hours daily.

The children's parents quite often stay with the children when they use different media. The parents' presence seems to decrease with age as parents of 60 per cent of the children in the youngest age group (0-1 years) are present when their children watch TV shows or films, while the corresponding percentage for 2-4 year olds is 48 per cent and 28 per cent for 5-8 year olds. Watching TV/films is a popular media use for children aged 5-8 and parents' rules on this are not as strict as for other media use. Some parents have no rules on media use but a large majority believe that parents are responsible for protecting children regarding media use. The results of this study are quite similar to those from Sweden (Swedish Media Council). The conclusion strengthens results from previous studies on the importance of parents and children being together using media and that parents seem to accept their important role regarding their children's media use.

Download the full paper here (in Icelandic with an English abstract).

Find out more about the work of the Icelandic Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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