Children are gravitating away from TV with some spending far more time each week online than in front of a TV set, a new report claims.

Researchers from Ofcom found children found it 'too much effort' to interact in real life with those aged between four and 16 rarely interested in hobbies such as drawing, reading or playing an instrument.

One child who spoke to the media watchdog said she preferred to 'lounge around' watching Netflix and YouTube.

The 2018 research found that young viewers are watching less TV, following a trend which began in 2015.

The Ofcom report also showed that more than half of children over the age of eight were allowed to take a mobile phone to bed with them – for eight to 11-year-olds the rate was 40pc, while among 12 to 15-year-olds it was 71pc.

%image(14690371, type="article-full", alt="Children told Ofcom researchers that it was "easier" to stay at home watching streaming services like Netflix and chat the friends online than go out and socialise. Picture: Getty Images.")

Research has shown the damaging effects which using a device in the hour before bed can have on sleep patterns – with a recent study by the University of Lincoln suggesting the effect could be massively increased if the devices are used in a dark room.

It follows a report from child health experts last month which said parents should worry less about how much screen time their children get.

The Ofcom report said: 'Broadly speaking, it seemed that many children saw their friends face to face outside of school relatively infrequently.

'The most common reason given for this was that it was 'easier' to connect with friends online than arrange to see them face to face.

'When discussing how they chose to spend their time, many children described activities outside of the home, such as meeting up with friends or pursuing sports and hobbies, as more 'effort' than they often felt like expending.'

Children in 2018 were watching more online than on TV set, and finding it increasingly difficult to moderate their screen time, with 35pc having problems putting their devices down – an eight percentage point rise since in 2017.

Currently around 49pc of children aged five to 15 watch services such as Netflix, and 89pc of young teenagers watch YouTube.

Changes were also noted in children's use of social media. While the proportion of children with a social media profile has stayed the same (70pc of 12 to 15-year-olds and 20pc of eight to 11-year-olds) the sites they use have shifted.

Fewer 12 to 15-year-olds now nominate Facebook as their main site or app (down to 31pc from 40pc in 2017). Almost a quarter (23pc) nominate Instagram as their main app, up from 14pc in 2017, while the number using the photo-sharing site has risen from 47pc to 65pc.

Younger teenagers are aware of the social pressures which using such sites can bring, but they were felt more acutely by girls – 20pc of 12 to 15-year old girls versus 11pc of boys the same age felt the pressure to look popular on social media 'all of the time'.

The number of children experiencing bullying online stayed static from 2017, with around one in 10 eight to 11-year-olds and one in five 12 to 15-year-olds who opted to answer the question saying they had experienced some form of bullying. Around 10pc said they had been bullied on social media, through messaging apps or texts.

The perceived dangers of the internet are beginning to influence parental sentiment too. The proportion of parents of five to 15-year-olds who thought the benefits of the internet for their child outweighed any risks fell to 54pc in 2018, from a high of 67pc four years earlier.

According to Ofcom, the young people feel a sense of connection with online personalities and vloggers, who are seen as 'a source of inspiration and aspiration'.

The biggest increase in watching vloggers was among young teenagers, with 52pc now watching them compared with 40pc in 2017.

Gaming online has also seen a big increase - some three quarters of five to 15-year-old gamers now play online, up by two thirds since 2017.

Ofcom surveyed 40 children and their families for the annual report, doing in-depth research into their media habits.

%image(14690372, type="article-full", alt="Children are spending more time on devices watching streaming services than TV, Ofcom found. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto")