Kids and Gaming in the UK

Most kids in the UK today are gamers. A new study by Nickelodeon UK takes a look at how boys and girls play, and how they hear about new games.

What are kids’ gaming habits like in the UK today? And how do boys’ and girls’ gaming preferences and attitudes differ?

These questions were posited by a recent gaming project by Nickelodeon UK. This research was heavily featured in a July article on the future of gaming in The Guardian. Here are key findings from this study:

TV dominates UK kids’ screen time … but gaming is a huge (and growing) part of their lives.

  • Television viewing on the main TV set occupied 59% of their screen time
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) of their total screen time went to gaming

Gaming among kids is nearly universal in the UK, according to parents.

  • 99% of kids play games on handhelds, consoles, or mobile devices weekly, according to parents
  • Over half (56%) of kids play games daily—and it only grows with age (45% of K6-8, 57% of K9-10, 70% of K11-12)
  • Gaming moves hand-in-hand with personal device ownership, which also increases with age (46% of K3-4 own a device, 68% of K5-7, 85% off K8-11, 94% of K12-15)

Parents love gaming, too—especially as a family.

  • 3 out of 4 parents say they love to play games as a family
  • Nearly 7 in 10 see games as a great way to bond
  • As more Millennials become parents, new parents are very tech-proficient and pass that down to their children

Gaming isn’t just for boys—girls love it, too!

  • 70% of girls say they love to play games
  • 1 in 4 consider themselves a gaming addict
  • Boys play more frequently from a younger age–but at age 9-10 both genders are on an even playing field, with 54% of boys and 60% of girls gaming daily
  • Gaming peaks for girls at age 9-10—after that, their focus shifts toward their social lives (while boys’ passion for gaming continues)

Boys and girls play games differently.

  • Consoles are the #1 gaming device among boys (50% say it’s their favorite), followed by tablets
  • Smartphones do not really register for boys—they prefer bigger screens and more immersive experiences
  • Tablets are girls’ preferred device, driven by younger girls
  • Apps have made gaming more accessible to girls and offer more “girl-driven” games than consoles
  • At the peak gaming age for girls (9-10), consoles are important to hard-core gamers (25%), though the tablet still reigns (43%); as girls move into secondary school they focus more on smartphones

Boys’ gaming preferences shift with age. They start with exploring and racing games, then move into sports and shooting games.

  • While all boys are competitive, the youngest ones thrive on being the fastest, biggest, best
  • Competition becomes more advanced as boys grow — sports games become more popular and a way to bond with friends
  • Shooting games are more common among older boys (11-12)
  • Exploring/Building (primarily Minecraft) games remain relatively consistent across age groups

Girls love puzzle games the most.

  • Puzzle games are more suited to mobile devices (their preferred gaming device)
  • Singing and dancing games are popular, but skew younger
  • They also love Minecraft, character world games, and simulation games like The Sims
  • In general, girls stay with kids’ brands and immersive world longer than boys

Boys bond with each other through gaming, while girls prefer to play alone.

  • Boys enjoy playing with friends in the same room (something that increases with age); playing online kids in at 9 and by 11-12 a third of boys play online with friends (vs. 14% of girls)
  • Girls are more private about gaming, with 50% preferring to play alone (which increases with age)

When kids talk about gaming, conversations turn toward competition and new games.

  • Among boys and girls, levels completed and high scores are among the most common topics
  • New games are also a hot topic
  • Boys are more competitive than girls–as boys get older, they talk more about high scores and methods for increasing them (tips and cheats, YouTube videos, walk-throughs, etc.)
  • The playground is the main place where kids talk about and discover new games
  • YouTube is also a key source of gaming information for kids (especially boys) over 9

Summary of UK boys’ and girls’ gaming habits and preferences:


  • Core focus on game consoles because they are immersive
  • It’s all about completing the game and being the best
  • Tablets skew young or are more for casual gaming; they could be used to complement console games or promote conversation
  • YouTube is important for knowledge, discovery, and passing on skills—and should be embraced!


  • Gaming peaks at age 9-10, then migrates to smartphones in secondary school—social or puzzle games appeal the most
  • Don’t stereotype—racing and platform games are popular
  • Be inclusive
  • Mobile has opened up the market to girls – embrace the opportunity with this audience!