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QUSTODIO ANNUAL DATA REPORT 2020

Social media apps

This page is chapter 2  in a five-chapter series of app categories included in the Qustodio Annual Data Report on children’s digital habits during the year 2020.

RESEARCH BY APP CATEGORY

Social media

What we found

2020 was the year of TikTok in so many ways – India banned it, the US threatened to ban it, and the EU launched a probe into its use of minor’s information. All the while, TikTok’s popularity grew worldwide, almost hitting the coveted 1 billion active user mark (with twice as many downloads). TikTok was also the clear favorite among kids in our research, except for in one place, the US, where Facebook made an interesting comeback, rebounding from fourth place in 2019.

Covid-19 restrictions led to a surge in the use of social media apps in the spring and erased the typical after-school peak for their use. By the end of the year, the pre-covid pattern started to return, but still with close to half of kids connecting to social media throughout the entire day. For the entire year, average time on social media apps was 76% higher than in 2019, the highest increase for any app category.

What were the most popular social media apps among kids?

Kids everywhere, except the US, used TikTok more than any other social media app, re- placing Instagram, the most popular social media app among kids in 2019, and ahead of Facebook. Globally, Instagram’s popularity dropped 43%. We expected TikTok to take the top spot this year, but what surprised us most was Facebook’s rise to the number one spot in the US and its recovery in all other markets.

How much time did kids spend on social media?

TikTok was not only the most popular social media app among kids, it was also the app they used the longest – 75 mins/day globally, up nearly 100% from 2019. Compared to Instagram, kids used TikTok 31 minutes longer. Despite Facebook’s comeback in popularity among kids in our research, it was the app kids spent the least amount of time on, just 17 mins/day on average: nearly 1 hour less than on TikTok, 27 mins/day less than on Instagram, and 22 mins/day less than on SnapChat.

Kids used social media apps most in May across all regions. In a normal year, the peak would come much later, in October. As with every app category, we attribute this early spring peak to the Covid effect. On average, Kids in Spain spent the most time on social media apps, up 45% more in May, during the peak of the pandemic lockdowns, compared to January.

Kids and social media

What time of day did kids use social media?

As in other app categories, before the pandemic, kids used social media apps mostly after school, between 3pm and 8pm. With the arrival of the pandemic restrictions, that 5-hour window was replaced with 13-hours of high social media app use from 10am to 11pm. By the end of the year, the after-school peak started to recover, but the higher volumes of kids being connected throughout the day remained.

What time of day did kids use social media?

As in other app categories, before the pandemic, kids used social media apps mostly after school, between 3pm and 8pm. With the arrival of the pandemic restrictions, that 5-hour window was replaced with 13-hours of high social media app use from 10am to 11pm. By the end of the year, the after-school peak started to recover, but the higher volumes of kids being connected throughout the day remained.

Which social media apps did parents block most?

In 2020, parents blocked the same online video as in 2019, with the exception of the Disney Plus. The new-comer in online video streaming jumped high onto the most blocked list, just as it did for popularity. Parents blocked YouTube and Netflix more than any other online video app. Surprisingly, parents blocked YouTube Kids the least, despite it being the online video app kids spent the most time on. Parents in every region were also likely to block Twitch, a video app that received press in July when a teenager emptied $20,000 out of his mothers bank account to buy virtual goods and make donations to various Twitch streamers.
Kids and social media
Kids and social media

What we expect

In 2021, we expect TikTok to remain the most popular social media app among kids. Nevertheless, as it remains under scrutiny for data privacy, we also expect it to remain the top blocked social media app. We don’t expect Facebook to hold onto its lead over Instagram (which it owns). We also expect all the major social media platforms to put a greater focus on content for kids and how to keep them safe, such as the recently announced plans to create an Instagram for kids.

As kids go back to school, and Covid-19 restrictions lighten, we expect children to also go back to connecting less during schooltime hours. But, as kids are still allowed to bring mobile devices to school, kids will still be checking in between classes and at the lunch hour, even with their friends sitting right next to them.

What we expect

In 2021, we expect TikTok to remain the most popular social media app among kids. Nevertheless, as it remains under scrutiny for data privacy, we also expect it to remain the top blocked social media app. We don’t expect Facebook to hold onto its lead over Instagram (which it owns). We also expect all the major social media platforms to put a greater focus on content for kids and how to keep them safe, such as the recently announced plans to create an Instagram for kids.

As kids go back to school, and Covid-19 restrictions lighten, we expect children to also go back to connecting less during schooltime hours. But, as kids are still allowed to bring mobile devices to school, kids will still be checking in between classes and at the lunch hour, even with their friends sitting right next to them.

Kids and social media

What we recommend

One thing we hear again and again is how kids today don’t make a distinction between the digital world and the ‘real world’. And when it comes to social media, banning it from these kids would be like cutting off an arm. In other words, Social media is a very important part of their lives. And while there are minimum age requirements on app use, children will find a way to use them.

For many kids, social media is harmless and even a positive outlet for socialization and creativity. What’s key, is that parents become very familiar with the platforms their children are using and who they are following. Sit together with your child and set up the proper privacy controls (turn off location settings, limit connections to friends and family only). Talk about the influencers they are following and why.

Also, talk to your child about online risks. Remind them to think twice before they post, to avoid future embarrassment, regret, and identity theft. Finally, decide together how much time they will be allowed to spend on social media. Then stick to it.

Maria Guerrero, Family Psychologist, reminds parents that “self harm and even suicides are
on the rise among kids and teens. The research continues, but non-stop pressure to be liked and perfect coupled with exposure to dangerous content or challenges on social media may be partly to blame.

In regards to how much time parents should let their children spend watching online videos, it depends on many factors: the child’s age, maturity, digital resilience (how well they can cope with online threats if they occur), how much time they spend doing other activities including school online, what kind of content they are watching, how susceptible they are to addictive behavior and so on. To protect children from bullies, data thieves, pedophiles, fake news, dangerous challenges, I encourage parents to keep children off social media as long as possible. Kids’ brains aren’t ready for it. But no matter what their age, it’s never too early for parents to teach their children ‘netiquet’– being nice online and not saying something you’ll later regret – and about the many risks online and how to react when they strike.”

Georgie Powell, Digital Wellbeing expert, says, “Digital resilience is key. It will equip our children with the skills to recognise risk and emotional harm, to recover from difficulties and upsets, and to find balance and perspective in both the on and offline worlds.

Unfortunately online risks are on the rise. Whether it is the challenge of managing screen time, notifications and our own online behaviour, to navigating the challenges of fake news, online bullying or predators, our children need to be equipped with the skills to navigate this world. Kids are digital natives, not digital experts. Parents need to educate and talk to their children about the many risks related to social media and life online, just as they would about dangers in the ‘real’ world.”

I encourage parents to keep young children off social media completely. Kids’ brains aren’t ready for it”
Maria Guerrero

Family Psychologist