Consumer Insights: ‘iLove Them: Kids’ Use of iDevices’

by Katie Bessiere, Research, Nickelodeon

Born into a digital world, the post-millennial generation has a seemingly natural fluency – and unparalleled relationship – with mobile technology. As mobile offerings continue to expand and kids log an increasing length of experience with these devices, Nickelodeon gauged shifts in their usage with “iLove Them: Kids’ Use of iDevices.” In this study, Nickelodeon focused on tracking and understanding kids’ (ages 3-11) usage patterns, attitudes and all around love when it comes to their coveted iDevices (including Apple iPads, iPhones and iPods).

Key Findings

Overall, kids are exhibiting greater fluency with iDevices as compared to the previous year, and while gaming has held steady, non-gaming activities are growing.

  • Kids’ understanding of the mobile web seems much stronger: only 14% of kids didn’t know whether they accessed a website through a web browser or an app, versus 48% who weren’t sure the year before.
  • Video watching, picture taking and utility and information app usage increased from 2011 to 2012.
  • The number of kids using iDevices for social networking rose from 20% in 2011 to almost 50% in 2012.

As more kids turn to iDevices for their content, they are becoming more focused on the activity rather than the device that delivers that content/action. 

  • Increasing numbers of kids 6-11 watch video on the iPhone, narrowing the gap with the iPad.
  • More kids 6-11 are using the iPod Touch to text, eliminating the gap with the iPhone.
  • Increasing numbers of kids 3-5 use iPhone and iPod Touch for educational apps, eliminating the gap with the iPad.
  • Fewer kids exclusively use iPads for web browsing and online searches, bringing usage more in line with other devices.
  • However, each device continues to deliver unique strengths. For example, the iPod Touch is the preferred device for music while the iPad leads for TV/movie watching and reading.

Despite the fact that portability has long defined mobile devices, both preschoolers and kids 6-11 continue to use them more often in-home than out-of-home.

  • 96% of kids 3-5 and 97% of kids 6-11 use mobile devices at home.
  • Besides in-home use, in-transit usage is the most common context for kids to use mobile devices.
  • Out-of-home use has actually dropped somewhat for both age groups.

iDevices are truly entertainment hubs, continuing to deliver fun over function for kids.

  • Gaming is still by far the most popular entertainment activity across mobile for all ages, with 6 in 10 gaming daily.
  • Picture/video-taking has increased substantially for both age groups, with 59% of kids 3-5 and 54% of kids 6-11 engaging in these activities at least sometimes, an increase of 10% and 4% from April 2012.
  • Both preschoolers and kids 6-11 are increasingly likely to watch full-episode TV shows on an iDevice, and preschoolers are watching less short-form video.
  • Kids are increasingly likely to watch the characters/shows they like from TV on iDevices rather than brand new content/characters.
  • Network site usage (versus YouTube) on iDevices is rising among preschoolers.

Preschoolers’ mobile usage is on the rise, catching up to school-age children.

Overall, more preschoolers today have access to iPhones and iPads versus a year ago, and preschoolers have now caught up to or surpassed 6-11s for several activities.

  • Preschoolers are now more likely than kids 6-11 to take/look at photos and video, engage in creative activities, use educational apps, or read on their iDevices.
  • Preschoolers are now using more apps on the iDevices they access (an average of 12 apps across devices), and use their apps more often, especially on the iPhone.
  • Preschoolers are increasingly playing games on iDevices solo.

iDevices represent the evolution of communications. Across iDevices, over a quarter of kids are using their devices for communicating with others.

Communication and functional tasks are still less common than pure entertainment, but these activities are becoming more dominant.

  • 13% of preschoolers, 24% of kids 6-8 and nearly half of tweens (43% overall, 49% of tween girls) use an iDevice to communicate.
  • A less common form of communication — but one that takes clear advantage of the mobility of devices — is “checking in” via apps like Foursquare.


As preschoolers expand their mobile device usage, educational and creative activities will become increasingly important growth opportunities for marketers and developers alike.

e-Reading is an increasingly standard way for preschoolers to access books, with preschool iDevice reading increasing overall, especially for the iPod Touch and iPad. Those who read on iDevices do so more often than in the previous wave.

Self-expression is a big need for iDevices, with both picture/video capturing and creativity apps on the rise.

  • Picture/video on iDevices has increased across the board, with a more dramatic increase for video.
  • For 3-5s, picture/video capturing has jumped so much that preschoolers now exceed 6-11s’ usage.
  • An increasing number of preschoolers use iDevices for creative activities and are more likely to do these activities every day.

The Methodology:

This study was conducted by SmartyPants for Nickelodeon and based on an online quantitative study of 3-11-year-olds, including 1,384 U.S. kids and tweens. A minimum of 450 users provided in-depth information on each of the three iDevices: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

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