Kids Spent 100 Minutes Per Day Watching YouTube Last Month, a 75% Jump From a Year Ago

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YouTube’s dominance during coronavirus lockdowns has been challenged by TikTok, which has seen a 150% surge in usage compared to last May

YouTube and TikTok have dominated the time kids spend watching content while sheltering in place, according to a new study from Qustodio, a software company specializing in parental control programs. In May, American children between the ages of 4-15 years old watched nearly 100 minutes per day on YouTube on average, according to the study — up 75% from the same time last year. Worldwide, the average comes to 85 minutes per day spent surfing YouTube. (It should also be pointed out YouTube positions itself as a video site for kids 13 and older — and even has its own spinoff YouTube Kids app dedicated to younger children. Still, kids seem to prefer original YouTube.) The spike in YouTube viewing is due, in large part, to the coronavirus pandemic; kids have both looked to YouTube to augment what they were learning over Zoom instruction, while also looking for something to simply fill the extra time they have each day not going to school.
Graph showing YouTube’s upswing in time children spent watching content each day
YouTube’s popularity among kids ages 4-15 towers over all sites and social media apps, in fact, except one — TikTok. The wildly-popular app, best known for letting users create 15-second viral dance videos, has turned its battle with YouTube into a tight race for kids’ attention. Children in the U.S. last month, on average, spent 95 minutes per day on TikTok; it’s also growing faster than YouTube, with time spent on TikTok surging 150% from the same time last year. “Kids start going online as young as four years old, watching videos online; hence, YouTube becomes their natural entry point to the internet. For kids, YouTube equals internet and internet equals YouTube,” Manuel Bruscas, VP of Product and Data Insight for Qustodio, told TheWrap. “YouTube was the one and only king, until TikTok joined the party.” What’s behind TikTok’s big move? Bruscas pointed to two factors in particular. First, more influencers are shifting to TikTok — a move expedited by YouTube tightening its rules around creating content for kids, after the Alphabet-owned company agreed to pay the FTC $170 million last year for collecting personal information on child users without their parents’ consent. The second reason, according to Bruscas, is that “TikTok is mobile-first and the perfect platform for short-length videos recorded with smart-phones.” On top of that, TikTok benefits from kids growing more accustomed to watching content on their phones each year, compared to on their TVs or computers. Add in widespread stay-at-home orders, and it was a perfect recipe for TikTok to see a marked increase in time spent on the app. Overall, most social media apps have benefited from the lockdowns. Instagram has seen its usage increase from 50 minutes per day on average in February to 60 minutes per day during the pandemic, per Qustodio. And Snapchat has seen a similar jump, going from having its young users spend 57 minutes per day on the app in February to 65 minutes per day during quarantine. Social media apps, taken as a whole, have seen a 130% increase in usage during lockdowns, according to Qustodio. And as the report pointed out, the walls separating when kids could and couldn’t use their apps have now disappeared. “Social media only stops when children sleep,” Qustodio noted. “While there are dips during school times and in the evenings, children are still engaging at this time and all day long. Children stay connected up to midnight and at early hours of the morning. During the Covid-19 period, kids use social apps throughout the day, filling in the downtime buffer that going to school used to create.” The study is based on data provided by 60,000 families in the U.S., U.K. and Spain.