Kid doing crafts photo by Andrew Donovan Valdivia

How COVID-19 will help bridge the digital/IRL worlds

While everything has gone virtual in lockdown, YouTube's Lauren Glaubach sees an acceleration of the "see it, do it" trend that's been building for years.
November 6, 2020

At the start of this year, I doubt many of us were expecting to spend quite so much time at home. But ever since March, families have been trying to navigate how to do as much as possible, and engage with the world, from the comfort of their own homes. And their screens have become a vital part of this experience, inspiring real-world exploration during and/or after viewing. We know that when the video ends, kids are just getting started.

We’ve seen families blurring the lines between virtual and the real world since we launched the YouTube Kids app in 2015, and 2020 has seen this “view and do” behavior go into overdrive.

Gym class at home 

Jamie Amor launched her Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel in April 2012 to teach yoga, mindfulness and relation to kids and families. Amor’s blend of storytelling and yoga helped her channel achieve an average of 100,000 daily views. And then in March 2020, it jumped to over one million views in a day.

Families and kids are searching for content that helps them stay active at home. And while leveraging media to positively influence children’s adoption of healthy habits isn’t new, it’s become more critical in the context of COVID-19, when concerns about stress and anxiety are particularly acute. So it’s no surprise that views of “exercise for kids” videos have quadrupled year over year on YouTube Kids.

We’re seeing this play out in other genres as well. On YouTube Kids, viewership of videos related to crafts has grown by 175%, and viewership of videos related to drawing has grown over 200% in 2020. The skyrocketing views make sense as kids at home can easily follow along, particularly in a year with disrupted access to art curriculum. Art for Kids Hub creator Rob Jensen says, “All you need is a pencil or marker to draw with, lots of paper and coloring supplies, and you can follow along with us.”

A new kind of story 

Books have always offered the opportunity for readers to learn and explore the world through their imaginations. For early readers, storytime at the library or in a classroom provided this escape, and introduced kids to the wonders of books, language and storytelling. Kids now need a replacement for that experience. In fact, views of “bedtime story” videos grew by almost 90% on YouTube Kids this year.

This growth has been bolstered by creators and celebrities stepping in to help improve child literacy. Dolly Parton built on her efforts to increase children’s literacy through her Imagination Library by launching a bedtime story video series Good Night with Dolly, with her first video amassed over one million views in two weeks. And Michelle Obama partnered with PBS KIDS to launch a six-week read-along series called “Mondays with Me.” Through April and May, the six-video series racked up 3.5 million views. These are more than simple audio books read to kids; they encourage kids to join in on the fun.

Bridging virtual experiences

Yet another example of blurred lines between online and offline experiences is demonstrated by trends we’re seeing with virtual tours and travel. On YouTube Kids, we’ve seen an 85% increase in viewership of “virtual tours,” and viewership of videos of amusement parks has more than doubled.

While the Met Museum in New York City was closed earlier in the year, the museum launched three new YouTube series designed to bring the Met to you. It turned its popular in-person family event “Storytime with the Met” into a virtual video offering; launched “Insider Insights” to go behind the scenes on works of art with museum curators; and premiered a “Drop-In Drawing” series with tutorials based on Met collections. And while the Met is now welcoming back the public, the museum continues to upload this content to YouTube—because bringing the Met to the broader “you,” and making it more accessible to art fans around the world, remains relevant even after COVID.

It’s impossible to say whether these virtual experiences will drive an increase in real-world visits down the line, though they’ve certainly exposed audiences to new worlds and locations they may not have been able to visit before. And once kids are allowed to (safely) go back to these cultural activities in person, we hope it will continue to unlock new ideas for family and school activities.

So what does this mean for content production? The goal of “view and do” is to inspire children’s real-world creativity and exploration during and/or after viewing. The content that does this best will inspire viewers to learn through discovery. If you’re interested in producing content that taps into these trends, I’d encourage you to ask yourself: What will children and families do after the video ends?

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Donavan Valdivia on Unsplash

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