Breaking down the whos, whats and hows of YouTube

With children averaging 97 minutes on the platform each day, YouTube dominates their viewing habits. New research breaks down how kids find and engage with content.
April 3, 2019

YouTube continues to dominate how kids spend their time online and what content they watch, with 83% of kids saying they watch the Google-owned platform for an average of one hour and 25 minutes per day during the week and one hour and 49 minutes on weekends, according to new research from the University of Sheffield, Dubit and BBC Children’s. In part two of Kidscreen’s deep dive into the Social Media, Television and Children study, we’re looking at how kids use YouTube specifically.

Finding what to watch

Amid ongoing concerns over how kids discover new content on YouTube (and how much is kid-appropriate), it’s interesting to note that just over half of children (58%) always find something to watch on their own, while 35% sometimes find it on their own. Only 7% of kids reported never finding their own content, a number that decreases as kids get older (only 1% of kids over eight discover content without parental help).

When it comes to how they find that content, 60% of kids use the search bar and 43% use the “suggested videos” function on YouTube. They also find content by browsing channels (39%), using “history” (35%) or “popular” suggestions (30%).

But if they’re using a search bar, kids have a variety of ways to narrow down what they’re looking for, including school-yard recommendations (44%), something they have seen elsewhere online (33%), their parents (26%), word of mouth outside of school (24%), siblings (17%) and a TV schedule (15%).

Funny videos/pranks (47%), music videos (46%), people playing games (37%), hobbies (37%) and TV interests (37%), dominate their search trends.

Content preferences

Within those broader content categories, kids mentioned more than 300 themes and vloggers when asked for their top three favorite YouTube or YouTube Kids video channels. The themes mentioned most frequently were music related, game related, and vloggers. Disney, Peppa Pig and Minecraft topped the popular brands, and the channels that came out on top included Dan TDM (a game streamer with 21 million subscribers), Ryan ToysReview (18 million subscribers) and Zoella (11 million subscribers).

Funny content that makes kids laugh is the key reason they’ll tune in, though “cool/amazing/excellent” material also helped draw eyeballs.

Most frequently mentioned content when respondents were asked which were children's favorite YouTube channels

Most frequently mentioned content when respondents were asked which were children’s favorite YouTube channels

How kids use YouTube

Kids ages zero to seven still need a fair bit of help from parents in using the platform, however 55% can explain what they like/dislike about a video, 53% can click link to clear an ad, and 31% can subscribe to a channel. As kids age, they’re autonomy grows, with the older set able to search content using the search bar (87%), understand that videos aren’t necessarily real (78%), post a video themselves (58%) and make a video specifically for YouTube (55%). Most kids, regardless of age, still need help editing videos (57%), setting up their own channel (53%) and using settings to filter unwanted content (51%).

When kids use the platform, 23% of ages eight to 16 say they upload videos to YouTube, whereas only 11% of under eights do. These videos are, most often, videos of their computer games (36%), videos of themselves, siblings or friends talking (30%) and singing songs (23%).

When monitoring kids content, it’s worth being aware of the comments sections: 92% read comments on their own videos, 64% read comments on others’ videos, though only 43% leave comments.

Advertisements on YouTube aimed at kids continue to be contentious, and in this research 64% of parents said they would prefer if social media sites their children used did not have ads. Kids say when watching videos, 9% watch the whole ad before the video starts, 13% do so frequently, 51% sometimes and 28% never do.

YouTube usage and experience (0 to 16s)

YouTube usage and experience (0 to 16s)

For the research, Dubit surveyed 3,154 families with children age zero to 16 across the UK. The group was 37.3% kids ages zero to seven and their parents, and 62.7% eight to 16 years-old and their parents. It was 43.5% female, 55.5% male, 0.4% non-conforming and 0.6% preferred not to answer. The ethnic makeup was 84.1% White, 4.9% mixed, 6% Asian or Asian-British, 3.2% Black or Black-British, and 1.9% Chinese or other ethnic group.

The research surveyed 3,154 children from birth to 16 and their use of social media and television. Part one of the research breakdown covering devices and platforms on which kids consumer content is available here.


Every day this week we will be breaking down more research from the report, check back tomorrow for more insights.

About The Author
Alexandra Whyte is Kidscreen's News & Social Media Editor. Contact her at



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