YouTube isn’t particularly kid-friendly. Especially since the platform is in the middle of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission after an investigation found the Google-owned streamer failed to protect its kid users from inappropriate content and improperly collected their data in breach of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
But, children’s content—and content featuring children—makes up YouTube’s highest-viewed videos, according to new data from the Pew Research Center, despite the fact that kids under the age of 13 aren’t meant to be using the platform at all. The study looked at every piece of content posted by high-subscriber channels in the first week of 2019 and found that posts featuring children had nearly three times as many views as other types of videos—whether the content was aimed at kids or not.
Only 21% of content featuring children was actually geared at kids. Of the videos targeting children, only 13% featured any real kids at all, though the small percentage that did received four times as many views as the other videos on the platform. (Particularly popular content tends to feature kids dressing up, singing and playing make believe.) Other highly viewed kids content tended to feature animated videos, songs and nursery rhymes.
While YouTube Kids is designed for the younger set and features parental controls and curated video playlists, it isn’t without its own problems. Google recently had to launch new customization features and increase its content moderation staff in an effort to flag and remove inappropriate content from the platform.
The Pew study also found that gaming was one of the most popular genres during the first week of 2019, making up 18% of all videos posted by popular YouTube channels in that period. Content about video games, including clips of people using gaming platforms like Twitch and Discord to stream themselves playing games, tended to be much longer than other types of content, like videos about toys or games. Toy- and game-based content made up 3% of all of the videos examined, but when it comes to content aimed directly at children, videos about toys and games made up 28% of the content posted by the most popular channels.
As for the top views drivers, videos that featured “Fortnite,” “prank” or “slime” received five times as many hits as content without those keywords. Fortnite in particular was an effective driver: the game was associated with the largest increase in views of all the words examined, and videos with “Fortnite” in their titles accounted for 15% of all video game-related content uploaded by popular channels that week. The word “kid” was associated with higher views for videos about toys or games.
The study examined 43,770 YouTube channels with at least 250,000 subscribers and found just over half of those channels posted content during the first week of 2019. Those channels posted 243,254 videos over the week-long period, totaling more than 48,000 hours of content. The average video posted was 12 minutes long and received 58,358 views during its first week on the site.