Mar 6, 2021

Screen Time All the Time: Zoom topples WhatsApp, Instagram popularity drops 43%

Qustodio team

Qustodio team

Experts in digital safety

    • Qustodio launches its annual report focused on children’s digital habits throughout 2020. The study covers families with children between 4 and 15 years old in Spain, the US and the UK. 
    • The study analyzes kids’ app use across 5 categories: online video, social media, gaming, education and communication (new to this year’s report due to its unprecedented growth). 
    • Propelled by Covid-19 lockdowns, globally in 2020 the time spent on apps grew by 25% for online video, 23% for video games, 54% for education, and 49% for communication. Social media apps had the most remarkable increase of 76%. 
    • WhatsApp remains the most popular communication app, but kids use Zoom 56% longer (50 min/day). 
    • Instagram popularity dropped 43% in 2020, lagging behind Facebook globally. Nevertheless kids spend more time on Instagram (44 mins/day vs 17 mins/day on Facebook). 
    • YouTube is still the online video app of choice for kids, but its lead is shrinking with increasing competition. Meanwhile, Twitch’s popularity increased as much as 150% in regions such as Spain.
    • YouTube Kids is the app parents blocked the least, even though it is the online video app most used by children (68 min/day), nearly 50% longer than time spent viewing Disney Plus. 
    • Globally, Roblox continues to be the most popular video game app, although World of Warcraft is the longest played. 
    • In 2020, the use of educational apps grew by 54%.


    A little over a year has passed since the arrival of Covid-19 and the related pandemic restrictions that pushed much of the activities left in the offline world into the online world. Our way of relating, working, educating, socializing and entertaining was pushed behind on the screens. 

    However, even before the pandemic, Qustodio, the leader in online safety and digital wellbeing for families, was already warning parents about the risks related to the excessive use of screens by kids, highlighted by a 100% increase in online activity in the spring of 2020, and remaining up 36% for the year, even as many kids returned to the classroom. 

    Aware of this constantly evolving digital reality, Qustodio presents its second annual report on children’s digital habits: ‘Kids and apps: a year trapped behind screens’, a study that provides insights on the app behavior of 100,000 families with children between 4 and 15 years in Spain, the US and the UK during 2020. The study researches 5 app categories: online video, social media, gaming, education and communication, the latter new to this year’s report due to the unprecedented growth in the category. 

    The analysis of online video showed a clear need for entertainment during lockdowns–viewing among kids increased by 25%, an average of 45 minutes per day. YouTube was the most popular video by far, but its lead is shrinking with increasing competition. Twitch saw exceptional growth in popularity, increasing as much as 150% in spain. 

    The other star of 2020 was Disney Plus, absent from the Spanish market before the pandemic, it has gone on to become the 3rd most used video application in the US and the 4th in Spain and the UK. Nevertheless, kids spend nearly 50% more time watching videos on YouTube Kids than on Disney Plus. Parents blocked YouTube Kids the least, even though it is the online video app that kids use the most, 68 mins/day on average. 

    While video apps kept many kids entertained, social media apps kept them connected. Social media use had the largest and sustained increase for the year, 76% higher than in 2019. TikTok, despite all the bad press, rose several points to be placed in the favorite social network among kids. Children connected to TikTok on average 75 minutes a day, nearly 100% more than last year. 

    Instagram, which was the most popular social network in 2019, dropped 43% globally, placing it behind Facebook. Nevertheless, kids continued to use it far more than Facebook (44 mins/day compared to 17 mins/day). 

    Among gaming apps, the analysis shows that the vast majority are games inspired by war, battle, survival and with violent content. Additionally, time kids spent playing games in 2020 was up 23% relative to 2019. Globally, Roblox remained the most popular video game with 35% of children playing that app worldwide. Kids also played Roblox longer than the other popular apps, averaging 100 minutes a day in the US, 95 minutes a day in the UK, and 86 minutes a day in Spain. For example, Kids played Roblox 2x more than Brawl Stars, the most popular application in the Spanish market. Which game did kids play the longest overall? World of Warcraft (142 min / day). 

    Looking to education apps, according to the study, in the first semester, the use of learning and classroom management apps by children shot up 162% during the pandemic, and landed up 54% for the year. Google Classroom remained the most popular application worldwide with the exception of 

    the United Kingdom where Show My Homework held on to the top spot. Finally, communication apps have been fundamental, allowing contact with friends and family during this period. So much so, that the time spent in them increased by an average of 91 minutes a day, that is, 49% more than in 2019. Although WhatsApp is still the most popular, 2020 welcomed Zoom, which took off during the pandemic and grew by more than 90% in popularity. Kids used Zoom an average of 50 minutes a day, 56% more than WhatsApp

    Before the pandemic, kids used apps most between 4 pm and 8 pm, but during the lockdowns that after school peak disappeared and stretched out throughout the day, from 11 am to 9 pm. The buffer in screen time created by going to school was gone as school itself went online and parents needed to keep kids educated and entertained while they themselves had to work online. 

    Eduardo Cruz, CEO and co-founder of Qustodio, sums up the report by saying, the “confinement has marked a before and after in people’s digital lives. The insights obtained during this period highlight the stark contrast in kids habits compared to 2019. The habits assumed during the Covid-19 will be difficult to modify, especially among kids. It is expected that the mainstream apps will continue to grow and offer increasingly specialized and personalized services, including adaptations of popular services for kids. Instagram’s recent announcement of the creation of a version of its service for children is just the beginning.” 

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