Dramatic moments and a new split-screening trend are winning with young viewers

New research from UK regulator Ofcom finds that kids are looking for amped-up content and consumption experiences when they go online to be entertained.
April 3, 2023

Watching one thing at a time is so 2021! According to new research from UK regulator Ofcom, there’s a trend emerging in which creators are editing two videos together to display simultaneously side by side or vertically stacked in a split-screen format. 

Sometimes the clips are related (i.e. influencers reacting to real-world events), and in other cases, they have nothing to do with one another. But most importantly, kids surveyed found these types of videos more “satisfying,” saying they get bored watching one piece of content at a time.

This key insight came from a pair of new research reports on kids’ media habits and attitudes (one qualitative and one quantitative) that were published by Ofcom last week. The qualitative report, called Children’s Media Lives, is based on research conducted last October and November as part of an ongoing series of annual interviews with 21 children ages eight to 17.

This same survey also found that kids are drawn to “dramatic” short videos designed to grab their attention, but which require minimal effort and focus to watch. These videos feature themes like controversy, conflict, gossip and high-stakes challenges. Some good examples come from YouTube creators MrBeast, Infinite and JackSucksAtStuff, and they often feature quick cuts, rapidly changing camera angles, special effects, animation and fast-paced speech, according to the report. For dramatic unscripted content, some kids couldn’t tell—or didn’t care—if the videos were real or fake. 


Split-screen video of The Mandalorian behind-the-scenes footage on TikTok, courtesy of thecinemajunkies.

Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes 2023 is a quantitative report based on an online survey that Ofcom conducted between May and November 2022 with 6,795 three- to 17-year-olds and 2,526 parents of kids in the same age range.

It found evidence that there’s a change happening in the way children spend time on social media. Kids are more careful with their privacy and online image now, posting less often—and sometimes not posting at all—on social networks. The UK regulator found that only 32% of kids use social media apps to post their own videos, while 96% are happy watching vids posted by other people.

Used by nearly nine in 10 kids (88%), YouTube remains the most popular app for short videos (despite a 1% dip from the previous year). It’s followed by TikTok (53%) and Snapchat (46%), which have respectively increased their usage by 3% and 4% in the last year.

Top image courtesy of Angelo Moleele via Unsplash.

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