It’s official: YouTube is the most popular source of streaming video with teens. The platform has beat out Netflix, Hulu, and all other major streaming services for the top spot. This comes from a study conducted by investment bank Piper Jaffray in 2019 that found 37% of teens watch YouTube most often, beating out Netflix for the first time by 2%. With more teenagers tuning in to the platform than ever before, parents might wonder what, exactly, they like to watch on YouTube.
According to the researchers behind the study, YouTube’s popularity with teens is due to its wide array of teen-oriented content. This includes categories like music videos, influencer videos, video game playthroughs, and how-to videos, the analysts said. If we take a look at what performs well in these categories, we get an idea of what teens are watching.
According to Variety, the top most-viewed music videos are a “who’s who” of hot young musicians. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” claimed the top spot, affirming the rapper’s popularity with young listeners. Other notable entries come from rappers Dababy, Yo Gotti and 21 Savage, as well as pop singers Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande. This list seems to indicate a preference for hip-hop and pop music among teens.
The Power of Influencers
On the influencer front, Business Insider recently released a list of the most popular YouTubers in the world. These include channels encompass gaming, makeup tutorials, docu-series, and more. By far the most heavily represented category is gaming. Prominent streamer PewDiePie comes in at the top of the list with 102 million subscribers. The popular YouTuber has courted controversy with his off-color humor, and recently announced an indefinite hiatus from the platform. He is followed in popularity by gamers El Rubius (36.3 million), Fernanfloo (34.3 million) and Vegetta777 (28.1 million). Each of these creators mixes video game streaming with comedic commentary and hijinks.
Comedic vlogs have a strong presence on the list, with creators like Whindersonnunes, MrBeast, and Felipe Neto pulling in huge numbers with funny, slice-of-life videos starring themselves and their friends. For some, success has lead to more outrageous content. MrBeast, for example, has become famous for viral challenges like “Last To Remove Hand, Gets Lamborghini Challenge.” Videos like these utilize the impressive revenue that the MrBeast channel has generated. Currently, the channel has 26.9 million subscribers.
As far as makeup tutorials go, it’s difficult to beat Yuya, a beauty YouTuber from Mexico whose channel boasted over 23 million subscribers in August, according to Business Insider. This has rocketed Yuya into the company of YouTube beauty heavy hitters like Jeffree Starr. Starr, whose channel currently has over 17 million subscribers, got his start on Myspace in 2006 and remains popular on YouTube today.
Teens Speak Up
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece last fall asking a group of teens in Lefors, Texas what they liked to watch on YouTube. Their replies fell mostly in line with Piper Jaffray’s findings, with some interesting outliers. “I like to watch makeup tutorials a lot,” 17-year-old Mariah Fulton told WSJ, “and cooking videos.” Classmate Hannah Chaffin, 17, chimed in: “I like to watch people make things like dioramas or art projects. I just like to see how things were made.”
A few of the teens singled out videos of industrial shredders or hydraulic presses in action as being particularly soothing. “It’s just satisfying,” said 17-year-old Emily Chaffin. Fulton agreed: “I think it just lets you not think about anything for a couple minutes.” Many viewers seem to feel the same way: a channel dedicated to shredding, bigshredder, currently has about 103 thousand subscribers. Meanwhile, the popular Hydraulic Press Channel boasts a whopping 2.39 million subscribers at present.
Searching for Guidance
Back in 2018, researchers at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain, set out to find out what teens seek in YouTube entertainment. By compiling videos tagged with “vídeos de adolsecentes” (“teenage videos”), researchers were able to determine a list of four prevalent themes: sex, drugs, bullying, and pregnancy.
While the heaviness of these subjects might worry some parents, the study found teens mainly sought guidance in these weighty matters. According to the study, “videos with a preventive/educational component comprise the most heavily represented subtheme of any of the four main themes.” The study concluded that most teens weren’t searching for cheap thrills.
“Users have shown greater interest in seeking out constructive content to learn, educate themselves or avoid potentially risky situations (prevention) than in looking for violent or humorous content or content of other types,” the study said.
For their part, the teens of Lefors, Texas hope YouTube will remain a tool of education and enrichment. “I’m also afraid that this generation really won’t use the technology for educating themselves,” 17-year-old Todd Fry told WSJ, “and rather they’ll just use it to goof off.”
For the moment, however, teens still seem enamored with the breadth of knowledge available on the video platform. “There’s just so much you can learn on there,” 17-year-old Emily Chaffin told WSJ. “I’ve found myself wanting to watch a lot of informational stuff.”
What Teens Watch on YouTube — Sources:
Business Insider – “From PewDiePie to Shane Dawson, these are the 26 most popular YouTube stars in the world”
Business Insider – “The top 15 makeup and beauty YouTubers in the world, some of whom are making millions of dollars”
CCN – “PewDiePie Shutters Controversial YouTube Channel – But for How Long?”
MediaPost – “Survey: YouTube, Netflix Teens’ Favorite Video Platforms; Instagram, Snapchat Lead Social”
Rey Juan Carlos University – “Subject matter of videos for teens on YouTube”
Variety – “YouTube Reveals 2019 Top-Trending Videos, Most-Viewed Music Videos”
Wall Street Journal – “Teens Explain Their YouTube Obsession (Because Adults Don’t Get It)”