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Early teens gaming online more - Study

75% of gamers aged 5-15 have played online, up from 66% last year; girls play online less than boys, particularly as they get older

Online gaming is an increasingly popular way for kids to spend their free time, according to a report from UK media regulator Ofcom. The group released its latest report on media use and attitudes among children and parents this week, and noted some interesting discrepancies in online playtime by age and gender.

First off, the report found the number of children who have played games online is increasing. Last year, the group found that two-thirds of kids ages 5-15 said they ever played games online. This year, the portion was up to three-fourths.

The study also found at least one age bracket is playing online more frequently than before. While most age ranges showed little change in how many hours they spent weekly playing online, 12-to-15-year-olds reported a surge of an hour and a half more each week, now averaging 13 hours and 48 minutes.

Ofcom broke down the numbers by gender, and found a significant discrepancy in how much boys and girls play online, more pronounced than in any other activity the study tracked (including, social media, TV time, watching YouTube, etc.).

"Boys in each age group spend more hours than girls in a typical week playing games, with the difference by gender increasing with the age of the child," the report noted. "On average girls aged 12-15 spend around 9 hours per week gaming (9 hours 18 minutes) while boys of this age spend over 16 hours (16 hours 42 minutes)."

The gender difference extended to voice chat, where 30% of boys aged 12-15 said they chat to people they know only through a game, compared to 16% of girls in the same age bracket.

A summary of the report's findings is available online, and covers trends in all kinds of media use, including concerns about children spending money, social media, YouTube, and basic media literacy.

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