Continuing our coverage of the mainstream web, in this post we look at some of the most popular websites for kids. We've gathered information from a recent report (pdf) from Nielsen Online, via Marketingvox, which studied the online habits of Britons under the age of 23. We also polled friends of RWW via Twitter.

The Nielsen report concluded that entertainment sites have the greatest affinity with under 12s, games sites for 12-17 year-olds, and student and video sites for 18-22 year-olds. We're all familiar by now with the latter 'young adult' demographic, who are big users of social networks and video sites like YouTube. But let's look more closely at what the under 12 and 12-17 year old demographics are using on the Web.

< 12 yrs Like Entertainment; TV Networks Dominate

The above table is ranked according to percentage of <12 yrs in the audience, so the sites listed aren't necessarily the largest ones. Also as it's a British study, somewhat predictably the BBC has the 2 sites with the largest audience. Despite those caveats, one trend is crystal clear here: most of the most popular sites for under 12's come from television. These brands dominate the list of top websites for this age group: Nick, Cartoon Network, the BBC's CBBC and CBeebies and Disney International. So the Internet, for under 12s, is very much about entertainment and unsurprisingly TV networks use the Net to extend their brands.

It's interesting also to note that there is potentially big money for startups targeting kids, in terms of acquisitions by the big tv networks. Just last year Disney paid US$700M to acquire virtual world Club Penguin, one of the sites listed above. And needless to say, kids love it. RWW reader Richard Lusk says that "my daughter (12 yrs old) LIVES on Club Penguin." Many other friends of RWW listed Club Penguin too (see list below).

The site at the top of the list, with 32% of UK Unique Audience Under 12, is Swedish fashion community site Stardoll. At this site, users can dress up and play with dolls virtually. Membership is free and the company states that most of their users are girls between the ages of 7 and 17. Stardoll says that it has around 16M 20M users [Update: Stardoll contacted us to say that they passed 20M members last week]. It's had about $10M in funding so far from the likes of Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital Partners, so it is another example of how big the Internet market for kids is.

Recommendations from Friends of RWW

Many of RWW's readers are parents (including yours truly), so we asked on Twitter what other sites kids under 12 use. In my household, MyLittlePony and interactive pet games have been popular. Here is what others say, and we encourage you to add more in the comments to this post...

Mari Silbey noted that on HighlightsKids.com she can "do hidden pictures with my 2-almost-3-year-old. It's great."

Mikko Alasaarela said that his three under 12's "use game sites like miniclip, orisinal, kongregate, fantage." He also pointed out that "one of the most popular social networks for that age group is Habbo."

Shana Albert concurred with Mikko, saying that her son loves Habbo.

Nathan Hull said that "My nieces (4 and 7 yrs old) love pbskids.org"

Josh Morgan said that "yoursphere is a new one for kids. It's deal is that all participants are vetted."

Lidija Davis told us that her 9-year old boy loves gamespot.com and that he "visits all the time to get cheats for DS, Xbox". Lidija also said that he likes Club Penguin and Runescape and online games in general. Lidija noted too that YouTube is popular with under 12's - although, wary of the dangers, she said that "luckily my little people ask me to check first".

Jonathan Fields told us that his 7 year old daughter likes "club penguin, webkinz, stardoll, myscene, playhouse disney, pbsKids, and, of course, her blog".

Kevin Marks suggested runescape. He also listed toontown, webkinz, neopets, club penguin, and YouTube.

Andy Coffey tweeted that "my 6y/o loves lego.com".

Don Reisinger reminded us that Disney carries a lot of spyware!

Mike Brown said that Club Penguin is "hugely popular with our 6 and 10 yr old and lots of their friends".

Ben Tremblay suggested "http://pbskids.org/ and http://pbsparents.org/ There's also http://www.pbskidsplay.org/ but it's frabbed".

Dara Rochlin said that her "6 yo is a webkinz nut, can get on the laptop by herself and play, pbs kids, disney, build a bearville, starfall." As for her 11 year-old, he "likes addicting games, naruto arena, line rider, runescape, pivot, webkinz (to help his sister). Naruto Arena's a fav. He also likes miniclip, and castlewars (on kongregate)."

Online Gaming Big With 12-17 Year Olds

In this age group we start to see social networks make an appearance. In the UK, Bebo is very popular and so it's no surprise to see it ranked #1 in terms of users in the above table. In the US it would probably be MySpace, although we have no data for that.

But the biggest trend in this demographic is that online games sites - for example RuneScape, FreeOnlineGames, AddictingGames and MiniClip - are most popular with 12-17 year-olds.

The Mobile Web is also popular, with mobile phone social networking site Frengo (our earlier coverage) having the highest percentage (26%) of 12-17 year-olds amongst its audience in the UK.

The Nielsen report noted that "as children hit their teenage years, general entertainment sites tend to make way for games-focused sites".

Conclusion

For under 12's, entertainment rules. But there seems to be social networking aspects to that too, judging by the popularity of Club Penguin and StarDoll. After the age of 12, online gaming becomes more popular, and general social networks like Bebo and Facebook enter the scene. The Mobile Web is popular in the 12-17 age group too.

For more analysis about how kids use the Internet, check out Sarah Perez's great post Why Gen Y Is Going to Change the Web.

Please add more website suggestions for kids in the comments, and let us know what you think of these Web trends for the younger generation.

Image: pixelrobber