YouTube usage by children and young people: Current figures and analyses

"YouTube is (also) undisputedly the most important platform for moving image content among young people," attests the JIM Study 2017: 88% of young people use YouTube at least several times a week, 63% daily.

It is more often the boys compared to the girls, the middle age groups as well as young people with less education who are among the more intensive daily users. However, the young people themselves are only active to a small extent: only one percent of those surveyed regularly create and publish videos on YouTube. For the study, 1200 young people aged 12 to 19 were surveyed.

Since 2015, YouTube has offered the possibility of making user-generated videos accessible to a broad mass of Internet users. The platform covers any topic, regardless of whether it's highly professional video clips, shaky smartphone videos or still images set to music. In addition to helpful explanatory videos for everyday issues, videos of self-dramatization, but also videos containing violence and those used for propaganda purposes are available online. In addition, commercialization is an issue; the so-called "YouTube stars" in particular also advertise products and services as part of their videos. "According to YouTube, videos with a total duration of one billion hours are played every day" (source: JIM Study 2017).

The questions therefore arose, what content do young people currently use on the platform and what potential danger does it pose?

According to the JIM Study 2017, the following are the most popular genres (use: at least several times a week):

  • Music videos with 53 percent regular use,
  • humorous posts such as comedy by YouTubers (40 %) or funny clips (39 %),
  • Let's Play videos (35%) in which people can watch others play and comment on digital games,
  • 29 percent regularly watch videos by YouTubers on current news,
  •  more than one-fifth watch sports videos (23%) and
  • tutorials (21%).

The Act on! Short Report No. 3 by the JFF Institute for Media Education (2016) reports on how important YouTube stars are for children and young people aged 10 to 12: they inform, give children orientation and are role models. In Act on! Short Report No. 4 therefore took a closer look at the YouTubers admired by 10- to 14-year-olds. The report states that "many of the videos analyzed are challenging, if not overly challenging, for 10- to 14-year-olds in terms of content and social-ethical classification" (Source: ACT ON! Short Report No. 4.). Particularly in the context of humorous contributions (which, as mentioned above, are particularly popular with the target group), the positioning on violent conflict resolution, the ethical and religious stereotypes illustrated, and gender role stereotypes and sexism are contradictory and not very transparent. Also, especially in the form of viewer comments, violence, insults, sexism or other discrimination, among other things, provide a dubious orientation template. In addition, incentives to consume can be found, on the one hand in the form of advertising, or on the other hand in the celebration of a consumption-oriented lifestyle.

In view of the fact that YouTube content is not subject to content review and classification according to social-ethical standards, e.g., by self-regulatory bodies, it is incumbent on media education work in particular to make children and young people strong advocates of competent media use and to inform parents and educators about media education offerings. 


Further information: