Subscribe to the daily newsletter.

Children gravitate to “dramatic, short-form videos”


Ofcom has found that children are drawn to dramatic online videos on social media, with split-screening also on the rise.

The regulator has found that almost all children aged 3-17 (96%) watch videos on video-sharing sites and apps and 58% view live streamed video content.

YouTube is the most popular platform, used by 88% of children, although TikTok (53%) and Snapchat (46%) have seen significant increases over the last 12 months.

On the whole, it discovered that children are gravitating to dramatic online videos “which appear designed to maximise stimulation but require minimal effort and focus.”

The recurring themes are gossip, conflict, controversy, extreme challenges and high stakes – often involving large sums of money. Commentary and reaction videos, in particular those stirring up rivalry between influencers are also popular.

The last 12 months have also seen a rise in split-screening, where children watch more than one short-form video simultaneously, on a single-screen, side-by-side or stacked on top of one another.

Ofcom said they believed this was the next step in the ‘multi-screening’ behaviours seen in previous research waves, where children reported difficulties focusing on one screen-based activity at a time.  

Despite the amount of content watched, young people are more “socially self-conscious” and are posting fewer videos.

They also said they were seeing less content created by friends and even when they did see it, they were interacting with it less.

Many said that online social interaction was confined to chat apps, or message functions, rather than public feeds.

Participants in the Children’s Media Lives study added that they were creating edited or filtered videos and photos, but leaving them in their drafts, rather than posting them.

The research examined the habits of 16-24-year olds. 87% use social media, messaging, video-sharing and live-streaming – significantly higher than the average user (61%). 

Snapchat and TikTok have grown in popularity, overtaking Instagram as the social media platform they said they used most often. BeReal has grown from 9% to 22% in this age group.

51% of respondents said they spent too much time on social media. Higher than the average of 32%. But they were also setting boundaries, and were most likely to take a deliberate break from using any social media apps, or deleting them.

Older teens and young adults are also generally more likely to seek out online content and services that support their wellbeing (89% vs. 78% of all online adults). These included websites and apps to help with relaxation, improve their mood, aid sleep or manage anxiety.

Making Sense of Media is Ofcom’s programme of work to help improve the online skills, knowledge and understanding of UK adults and children.

Subscribe to the Prolific North Daily Newsletter Today!

Want all the latest content from Prolific North delivered direct to your inbox daily? Of course you do!

Related News