| Social media

How kids spend their time online

| 30 Oct 2020

For most parents, it’s a familiar scenario: dinner comes to an end and the kids start asking if they can have their smartphones or tablets back. They’ve been pawing after them all day. If only we could get them as excited about eating greens as they get about playing Fortnite … The question is, how exactly do kids spend their time online after we give in and hand back their smartphones? And what should we as parents look out for as a result?

At a glance: what kids are up to online

Kids are spending a LOT of time in front of screens on a daily basis. According to a recent report from Common Sense Media, kids between 8-12 years of age average nearly five hours of screen time a day. For teens, that number jumps to well over seven hours. As to how kids spend this time, there are a few trends that parents should be aware of. 

Social media

According to Pew Research, 51% of teens aged 13-17 use Facebook. While that number is significant, it has actually decreased in recent years. Why? Likely because a lot more young people are flocking to new social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok. 

Speaking of TikTok, here’s a staggering number: according to the New York Times, the company reports that more than one third of its 49 million daily users are under the age of fourteen. The minimum age to use TikTok is 13. So, if you’re wondering where your teen, tween, or middle schooler is hanging out online, start with TikTok.


Speaking of video, we’d be remiss if we did not mention YouTube. The Google-owned juggernaut is very popular among young people. According to the same Common Sense Media report cited above, the percentage of people who watch online videos every day has doubled since 2015. 

The popularity of YouTube videos is due in part to the rise of famous YouTubers. Channels like Jake Paul, PewDiePie, and others have gained tremendous viewerships and followings, much of it comprising young people and kids.


Now that most kids are walking around with supercomputers in their pockets, gaming has exploded in popularity. Approximately 22% of U.S. children used their smartphones for gaming in 2019. Between smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers, kids are spending more and more time playing popular titles like Fortnite and Minecraft. 

Yet there is another wildly popular place where young people go online: Twitch. This streaming platform is especially popular among gamers. In 2020 alone, Twitch boasted 6.4 million monthly streamers and 885 billion minutes watched (Twitch Statistics & Charts). 

Here’s where parents need to pay attention: the barrier to entry on Twitch is 13 years of age. In a recent investigation by WIRED, young and even underage kids are streaming on Twitch, often attracting inappropriate or even predatory behavior from other users. 

What it means for parents

You’ll notice two other activities absent from the list above: messaging and schoolwork. There’s no question that kids spend a lot of time exchanging messages via text, messaging apps, and social media. However, given the nature of messaging, it’s difficult to gather concrete demographics data. As it pertains to your child, however, messaging can certainly be quantified and monitored.

In terms of school work, one would hope that kids spend at least part of their five to seven hours of daily screen time on school work. In the age of COVID-19, with many kids attending school remotely, the amount of screen time spent on school work has, presumably, increased. 

Herein lies the important thing for parents to keep in mind: screen time is a part of the daily fabric for most kids. They use screen time for school work, socializing, and entertainment. They watch videos, send messages, and share their own content. 

The statistics and observations above should give you a good place to start when it comes to understanding how your kids spend time online. Though we doubt parents are going to rush out and launch their own Twitch streams or YouTube channels, this should be ample grounds for an open and honest conversation with your kids about their experiences in cyberspace.

Maybe they’ll inform you about something that didn’t make it to our list.



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