For Kids, Second Screen Comes First

While the television screen is still the most favored way for young kids to view Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins, several recent surveys reveal that iPads, Xbox consoles and computers are quickly becoming more than a second screen to pre-millennials.

Right now, kids 8 and younger are big TV viewers: television use in that key demo is up 12% compared to nine years ago, despite the availability of alternative distribution technologies, according to Nickelodeon’s recent The Story of Me research survey on post-millennials and their habits.

But a recent Common Sense Media report on children’s media use also reports that for young kids, tablets, video-game consoles and computers are becoming as ubiquitous in the home as Barbie dolls and Lego blocks. The survey said 72% of children 8 and younger have used a mobile device for some type of media activity, such as playing games, watching videos or using apps. That’s up from 38% just two years ago.

While game-playing takes up the most time on these devices, long-form content viewing among kids is increasing. More than half of kids with an Apple iOS device (iPad, iPhone) now use those gadgets to watch long-form content, a 23% lift over last year, according to Nickelodeon. That bodes well for companies like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which have launched TV Everywhere products targeted to post-millennials. But whether that will eventually undermine cable viewership has yet to be determined.

Further, when kids do sit down to watch TV, they’re increasingly watching timeshifted content. Almost one-third of TV time of kids up to 8 years old is spent watching downloaded, streamed, on-demand or DVR content, according to Common Sense Media.

With over-the-top players including Netflix and Amazon doubling down on original kids’-targeted programming, that number is bound to increase over the next two to three years.

Cable may have the attention of toddlers today, but if the industry isn’t careful, those same kids could grow up to become the first generation of mostly cable-nevers.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.