Children’s Media

In addition to exploring the entertainment habits of adults in the Arab region, the NU-Q survey also examined entertainment habits of children. Findings reported here were provided by adults with at least one child living in their household.

Entertainment media tend to be viewed as beneficial to children, although some nationals are concerned about the perceived negative impact of entertainment on attitudes, behavior, and development. Fewer nationals in 2016 perceive positive effects of entertainment on children than in 2014.

Less than half of nationals with children in the household feel exposure to entertainment media helps hand-eye coordination (46%), down from 54% in 2014. This decline was seen in the Gulf states (Qatar: 68% in 2014 vs. 56% in 2016, Saudi Arabia: 69% in 2014 vs. 46% in 2016, the UAE: 55% in 2014 vs. 43% in 2016). A sizeable minority believes exposure to entertainment media can contribute to poor health and obesity and can cause a lack of concentration (37% health and obesity and 36% concentration). Qataris continue to be the most concerned that using entertainment media contributes to both issues (poor health and obesity: 66% in 2014 vs. 64% in 2016, lack of concentration: 68% in 2014 vs. 65% in 2016).

However, respondents also feel entertainment media help children become both more tolerant of other cultures and develop a sense of their own culture. Majorities in most countries, except Tunisia, believe entertainment media promote tolerance, although this view has softened since 2014 (61% in 2014 vs. 54% in 2016). More than four in 10 feel entertainment helps children get a better sense of their own culture, but again, agreement is lower than two years ago (44% in 2016 vs. 49% in 2014). In comparison, one-third feel entertainment leads children to lose a sense of their own culture, similar to 2014 (34% in 2016 vs. 31% in 2014).

Among all nationalities, Qataris are the most likely to feel entertainment promotes cultural tolerance and a sense of culture among children, and more so in 2016 than in 2014 (tolerance: 77% in 2016 vs. 73% in 2014, sense of culture: 66% in 2016 vs. 52% in 2014). However, Qataris are also concerned about children losing a sense of their own culture due to the entertainment they consume (55% in 2016 and 46% in 2014).

Western expatriates are the most likely to believe entertainment media are beneficial to children in their household, while Arab nationals are least likely to believe entertainment has a lasting impact on children, either positive or negative. Half of both Western expatriates and Asian expatriates in the region worry children in their households lose a sense of their culture due to entertainment they consume (55% and 51%), compared with one-third of nationals and Arab expatriates (34% and 33%).

Those who describe themselves as culturally progressive are more likely than conservatives to say children’s entertainment has prosocial effects, in particular regarding creativity and imagination, tolerance of other cultures, and preparedness for school (creativity and imagination: 64% vs. 48%, tolerance of other cultures: 61% vs. 52%, preparedness for school: 54% vs. 45%).

Perceptions of positive effects of entertainment on children increases with the respondent's education level, in particular with regard to learning tolerance of other cultures, strengthening a sense of one’s culture, and inspiring creativity and imagination. 

Recognizing that adults might not be aware of all the entertainment choices children make in their homes, agency in choosing children’s entertainment shifts with the age of the child. When children are very young (0-6), the parents or other adults make most of the choices for the child (75% vs. 25% chosen by child). Older teenagers (15-17), on the other hand, are more likely to make their own entertainment choices (60% vs. 40% adult chooses or approves).

Regardless of age, a higher percentage of TV/video content is, according to adult respondents, chosen or approved by an adult for girls than for boys, by an average of seven percentage points (61% vs. 54% for boys).

Overall, more adults in Qatar say they or other adults in the home make entertainment decisions for the children (69%), while Saudi Arabia is the only country where children are more likely than adults to make their own entertainment choices (53%).

Three-fourths of adults want the government to do more to protect children from certain content, down from 2014 (73% in 2016 vs. 80% in 2014). Support ranges from a high of 86% in Qatar to a low of 53% in Tunisia.

The most popular entertainment media for children are similar to those for adults: watching TV, watching films, and listening to music. These are the top three forms of entertainment for children regardless of age. Other entertainment media children use, and the frequency with which they use them, varies with age.

The range of activities of the youngest age group (0-6) is more limited than that of older children. Around half watch TV, films, and listen to music at least weekly (58% TV, 45% films, 49% music), and 45% of 0 to 6 year olds play games on a phone at least once a week. Use of other media for entertainment at least weekly drops sharply among this age group. The 0 to 6 age-group is less likely than older respondents to use the internet generally, watch video content online, play games on a phone, and read books (or have books read to them).

Slightly older children use more varied entertainment media. Nearly eight in 10 7 to 11 year-olds watch TV weekly (79%) and 61% do so daily. Six in 10 or more play games on a phone (69%), listen to music (66%), watch films (66%), play video games (63%), and pass time online (62%) at least once a week.

About three-fourths of early teens (12-14) watch TV (77%), listen to music (76%), watch films (73%), and spend time online (71%) once a week or more. They are more likely than younger children to stream music online—half do so at least weekly.

Music and the internet play large roles in the entertainment diets of older teens (15-17). More than eight in 10 listen to music weekly (84%, 54% daily) and 59% listen to music online weekly. Three-fourths pass time online weekly (77%, 61% daily), and 62% watch online videos weekly, frequencies greater than those for younger children.

Seventeen percent of 0 to 6 year-olds spend time online every day, which rises to 40% among 7 to 11 year-olds, 47% among 12 to 14 year-olds, and 61% among 15 to 17 year-olds.