Kids and teens now spend more time watching TikTok than YouTube, new data shows

·5 min read

Kids and teens are now spending more time watching videos on TikTok than on YouTube.

In fact, that's been the case since June 2020 — the month when TikTok began to outrank YouTube in terms of the average minutes per day people ages 4 through 18 spent accessing these two competitive video platforms. That month, TikTok overtook YouTube for the first time, as this younger demographic began averaging 82 minutes per day on TikTok versus an average of 75 minutes per day on YouTube.

In the years since, TikTok has continued to dominate with younger users. By the end of 2021, kids and teens were watching an average of 91 minutes of TikTok per day compared with just 56 minutes per day spent watching YouTube, on a global basis.

This new data is based on kids' and teens' use of TikTok and YouTube across platforms, which was compiled for TechCrunch by parental control software maker Qustodio using an analysis of 400,000 families who have accounts with its service for parental monitoring. The data represents their real-world usage of apps and websites, not an estimate.

And to be clear, these figures are averages. That means kids aren't necessarily sitting down to watch an hour and a half of TikTok and an hour of YouTube every day. Instead, the data shows how viewing trends have changed over time, where some days kids will watch more online video than others, and will switch between their favorite apps.

However, the broader picture this data paints is one where the world's largest video platform may be losing its grip on the next generation of web users — specifically, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Gen Z is typically thought to include people born between the mid- to late-1990s and the 2010s. Meanwhile, Gen Alpha — a generation whose childhood was put on pause by Covid, then driven online — includes those born after the early to mid-2010s.

In a prior annual report, Qustodio had analyzed kids' app usage and found that TikTok was nearing YouTube in terms of average time spent. However, that report examined the data in a somewhat clunky fashion. It had included early 2020 app usage in a report largely focused on 2019 trends — a decision the firm had made at the time in order to highlight the increased connectivity taking place at the beginning of the pandemic. The report also focused on a handful of top markets, rather than global trends.

The new data, compiled upon TechCrunch's request, has been cleaned up to provide a clearer picture of the year-over-year shift in video viewing trends among the web's youngest users.

According to the firm's findings, YouTube was still ahead in 2019 as kids and teens were spending an average of 48 minutes on the platform on a global basis, compared with 38 minutes on TikTok. But with the shift in usage that took place in June 2020, TikTok came out on top for 2020 as a whole, with an average of 75 minutes per day, compared with 64 minutes for YouTube.

This past year, the averages grew even further apart. In 2021, this younger demographic spent an average of 91 minutes per day on TikTok versus just 56 minutes on YouTube.

Image Credits: Qustodio

Image Credits: Qustodio

The firm also broke out metrics for leading countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Spain, which demonstrate an even more incredible shift on a regional basis, compared with the global trends. For example, U.S. kids and teens last year spent an average of 99 minutes per day on TikTok versus 61 minutes on YouTube. In the U.K., TikTok usage was up to a whopping 102 minutes per day, versus just 53 minutes on YouTube. These figures include both website and app usage, we should note.

YouTube, no doubt, is well aware of this shift in consumer behavior as are all other social app makers, including Meta and Snap. That's why YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat have all now copied TikTok's short-form vertical video feed with their own products.

In YouTube's case, that's YouTube Shorts, a short video platform the company believes will prove to be a discovery engine that will drive users to its long-form product. The company recently touted that YouTube Shorts had topped 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users, and suggested that channels producing videos of different lengths were seeing gains in watch time. It didn't, however, share any specific figures on that front.

YouTube's first-party data, of course, takes into account a broader global audience — not just kids and teens. And it includes cross-platform usage on phones, tablets, the web, smart TVs, game consoles, connected devices and more.

But despite Shorts' growing adoption per YouTube's data, Qustodio's research seems to indicate younger people have simply been opting for the short-form content provided by TikTok. At the same time, TikTok has been slowly pushing its user base to consume longer videos. This year, for instance, TikTok expanded the max video length to 10 minutes, up from its earlier expansion to 3 minutes. And while most TikTok videos are not multiple minutes long, the "optimal" video length for a TikTok video has been growing.

In 2020, TikTok told creators that 11 to 17 seconds was the sweet spot to find traction. In November 2021, it amended that to 21 to 34 seconds.

Over time, this could also help to drive up the average watch time on TikTok as well.

Qustodio's larger annual report on digital trends indicates YouTube isn't the only app to feel the impact of TikTok's rise and the unique interests of Gens Z and Alpha. Young people use a different mix of apps than the generations before — like Roblox, for instance, which has been used by 56% of kids, or Snapchat, used by 82%. On average, they are totaling 4 hours of screen time per day, which includes educational apps.

The good news for YouTube, however, is that it's still ahead of other video streaming services in terms of time spent.

Globally, kids spent 56 minutes per day on YouTube last year, ahead of Disney+ (47 min), Netflix (45 min), Amazon Prime (40 min), Hulu (38 min) and Twitch (20 min)