Movies? TV? Those things are soooo 2015 for today’s youth. YouTube is where it’s at.
That’s what Common Sense Media found in its fresh-off-the-presses 2019 “Media use by Tweens and Teens” census. While tweens and teens aren’t increasing their screen time consumption at the rapid pace we’ve seen over the last decade or two, how they’re divvying up their screen time has changed dramatically.
Researchers found that the percentage of youth who say they watch online videos every day has more than doubled in the last four years: Nearly in seven in 10 teens say they watch online videos daily these days, up from the 34% who said the same thing in 2015. For tweens between the ages of 8 and 12, the increase is even more dramatic: About 56% say they watch online videos every day (via YouTube and other streaming services). In 2015, just a quarter of them watched such videos daily. The survey also found that those online videos were the media outlet they enjoyed engaging with the most, with more than two-thirds of tweens saying they enjoy it “a lot.”
Those tween stats are pretty interesting for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that YouTube (by far the world’s most popular video streaming outlet) says (in its small print) that it’s not intended for viewers under 13.
“It’s absolutely clear that children younger than 13 use the platform a lot, and they like it a lot,” Michael Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media, told Quartz.
Older teens also enjoy those online videos “a lot.” About 58% of them said just that—more than the 43% who said the same about video games, 41% for social media and 44% for watching television.
And once tweens and teens start watching, they don’t stop for a while. The time these youth engage with streaming videos has about doubled as well: On average, tweens watch 56 minutes of such videos a day (up from 25 minutes in 2015), while teens watch nearly an hour (up from 35 minutes).
Meanwhile, the time youth spend watching television—at least on a standard television set—continues to decline. The survey found that less than a quarter of teens watch television on your typical family TV, down from the 48% who watched TV on TV in 2015.
“We used to have more shared family experiences,” Robb told Quartz. “That’s more at risk because we have more individualized media experiences.”
If there’s good news for screen-wary parents, it’s this: Time these youth are spending with screens is climbing more slowly than it used to. But still, they’re spending a lot of times with their screens: Teens, in fact, spend about 10 hours a day staring at them (though some of that time is spent doing homework on a computer). Cut out that school-and-homework allotment, and teen screen time drops to “just” seven and a half hours. (Tweens spend a little less time than their older brothers and sisters, with kids between the ages of 8 and 12 spending around five hours a day being entertained by media.)
It’s a paradox that youth spend so much time on screens, given that many say it’s a major issue.. An earlier study, this one by the Pew Research Center, found that even teens—60% of them, anyway—thought that spending too much time online was a “major” problem for them.
All these studies are a good reminder to parents on a couple of fronts, I think. One, your kids are spending as much time with their screens as they are with any actual living person. And two, those same teens might need some help in moderating their screen time.
‘Course, to do that most effectively, we adults have to monitor our own screen time, don’t we? Easier said than done.