Insights Ofcom publishes collection of research reports into media habits and online lives of children, parents and adults in the UK

Ofcom has published four reports:

  • Children’s Media Lives 2023;
  • Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes 2023;
  • Adults’ Media Lives 2023; and
  • Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes 2023.

The reports find, amongst other things, that much of the social media content consumed by children in the study are “dramatic” online videos which appear designed to maximise stimulation, but require minimal effort and focus.

The reports show that gossip, conflict, controversy, extreme challenges and high stakes, often involving large sums of money, are recurring themes. These videos, popularised by the likes of Mr Beast, Infinite and JackSucksAtStuff, are often shortform, with a distinct, stimulating, editing style, designed to create maximum dramatic effect and maintain the attention.

Almost all children aged 3 to 17 (96%) watch videos on video-sharing sites and apps. More than half of all youngsters view live-streamed video content (58%), which increases to 80% among 16-17-year-olds.

YouTube remains the most popular site or app, used by nearly nine in ten 3–17-year-olds (88%), although short-form video apps TikTok (50% to 53%) and Snapchat (42% to 46%) saw significant increases in use over the last year.

Other findings include:

  • the rise of “split-screening”: this trend for watching two social media videos on the same screen at once appears to be a progression of the multi-screening behaviours seen in previous research waves, where children reported difficulties focusing on one screen-based activity at a time;
  • more careful, less creative: youngsters appear to be more socially self-conscious, posting much fewer videos (32%) than they watch (96%); among those that do post, it was often rarely, to limited circles, while others created content as drafts, with no intention of posting publicly; social interaction between friends online is also now primarily confined to chat or messaging apps, rather than on public feeds; and
  • screen time balance: just over half of social media users aged 16-24 (51%) thought they spent too much time on social media, up from 42% in 2021, and significantly higher than average (32%); however, they are also more likely to take social media breaks to manage wellbeing (36% vs. 25% average) or delete apps to avoid spending too much time on them (32% vs. 23% average).

To read Ofcom’s news release in full and for links to the reports, click here.