This is what Ofsted found out about kids’ screen time - it may surprise you


The BBC, Channel 4, ITV? Some children have never heard of them

Certainly not Harry, aged six. Brought up on a diet of Amazon Prime or Netflix, why would he? Even Laura, aged 12, who watched programmes like Hollyoaks and Simpsons with her family via catch-up on their Virgin box, had no idea they came from Channel Five. I mean, who the heck is Auntie anyway? 

The video clip is their daily drug - to the exclusion of almost every other activity  

So some kids squeeze in a few offline "interests and passions", but the vast majority interviewed spent their evenings and weekends glued to video clips or gaming. Famous five go adventuring again? Forget it. 

YouTube is their fave, followed closely by Netflix 

They love a vlogger, slime and how-to videos, plus activity clips. Actual activity? Not so much. Typical is Craig, aged eight, who loves football but prefers Fortnite more. Also Netflix makes it "easy to find content they want to watch". Not one child mentioned Blue Peter, obvs. 

Playdates and sleepovers? Ova...

Ofsted discovered few children did "spontaneous or unstructured" activities on a regular basis eg: hobbies (stamp collecting anyone?), drawing, reading or playing an instrument. Meeting up with friends? "Too much effort”, apparently. Take Minty, aged 12, who's "a bit anti-social" and chooses the company of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Skin Wars on Netflix instead. (Hands up, I have a Minty of my own at home). 

Children's screen time is now a solitary, bedroom-bound pursuit   

They're the home alone-in-their-room generation who prefer total control over their devices. Samantha, 14, rarely sees friends after school and goes straight to her bedroom, where the TV provides white noise while she does her homework or flicks through Instagram. The weekends mean “binge watching” Netflix. Sound familiar?

Eight year olds watch Netflix before school  

Like little Freddie. Before school he'd "often" fit in a short episode of Big Momma’s House on his tablet in his bedroom. Normal TV? His mum says he struggles to understand what's going on - when you're used to watching stuff inches from your nose with headphones clamped over your ears, anything else is an attention challenge. Jeez.

Parents haven't a clue what children are watching   

They know YouTube is their child’s ‘go-to’ platform, but that's it. Nine year old Jade watches bodycast vids - take a look, it's so inappropriate. Minty’s mum also assumed "it was just Tracey Beaker” stuff she was watching, not drag queen RuPaul. Mother of Troy, aged four, who's addicted to his tablet, "was worried about him being on his own too much". Hello? Play. With. Him.  

Families watching live TV together is so last century

Despite mums valiantly trying to keep TV a family "event", it's in its death throes. More likely "children watched the same TV programmes as their parents, but in their own room". Laura, aged 12, also liked eating in front of the television otherwise “it would be awkward”, ie: she'd have to actually talk to her family.   

Although typically family-phobic, kids love watching happy family vloggers

“They are just normal people” said Georgia, aged 14, about the vlogger families she watches on YouTube. Debatable. Natasha, nine, also follows the UK's Ingham Family and Norris Nuts from Australia - families from different places doing fun activities together. The irony.   

PS: A WhatsApp from our 14 year old Friday morning - he wants to go on the climate change march. "I feel really passionate about it".

Do you know what? There's hope.

* If you really want to read all 43 pages of the recent Ofsted report Life On The Small Screen, see here.

Jackie Annesley