COVID-19 dominates kids’ conversations

When it comes to what kids are talking about with friends, there is no escaping the pandemic, a new report from Childwise finds.
April 23, 2020

Data from Childwise’s newest Playground Buzz bulletin found kids’ conversations are being dominated by COVID-19, from school closures to concert cancellations. The report, which is published three times each year, surveys what kids are talking about online and in person. Six brands have topped the bulletin since it was launched in 2015—FIFA, Fortnite, Love Island, Minecraft, Xbox and YouTube. But in light of the global coronavirus pandemic, kids’ conversations have instead been dominated by quarantine, death tolls and toilet paper shortages.

One in five children surveyed by the UK-based market research firm said they had been talking about the outbreak recently, a record for the report. Not even Fortnite, which boasted a percentage of “Playground Buzz” more than three times greater than any other brand when it became a phenomenon in 2018, has preoccupied kids’ thoughts like COVID-19.

Overall, the report found boys and girls talked about the pandemic equally, though boys ages seven to 12, specifically, were the least likely to mention COVID-19 (around one in six).

The first mention of the virus in Childwise’s survey came from a teen girl on February 24, the day the survey went live in schools across the UK. Mentions of COVID-19 continued at low levels until the beginning of March, when they became more commonplace (with between one in seven and one in five children mentioning it). By mid-March, as many as two in five children were talking about the pandemic and, on March 19, 61% of kids surveyed mentioned the virus. That peak followed the March 18 announcement that schools would be closing.

In addition to concerns about school closures, children reported being worried about the cancellation of sporting events (including the Olympics and Premier League) as well as concerts (including tours by Harry Styles and Billie Eilish). Other kids, however, reported being concerned about spreading or contracting COVID-19 at school or social events.

And, of course, there was also talk of coronavirus-themed memes. One in six kids reported talking about COVID-19 memes, making it the most talked about meme since the question was introduced in the report in summer 2019. In fact, mentions of coronavirus memes were more than double that of Love Island- or Area 51-themed memes from previous bulletins. The “Corona Time” meme, for example, was mentioned multiple times.

@amirsannnMy ocd about to take over ##fyp ##coronatime ##quarantine ##persian ##carpet ##toronto ##happyathome♬ Its Corona Time – Red Knight

Childwise surveyed 1,704 kids ages seven to 17 across the UK for this Playground Buzz bulletin. The surveys took place at 32 schools between February 24 and April 2, 2020. Each year, the report features spring, summer and autumn editions.

The full Playground Buzz Bulletin—Kids Talk About the Coronavirus report is available online.

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