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!