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Research: Kids flock to TikTok & Roblox in lockdown

January 28, 2021

A report from CHILDWISE, an independent market research agency specialising in children and young people, reveals exactly what children have been doing under lockdown and how it is affecting their lives – including how gaming and social media is helping them cope and how many hours they really spend online.

The CHILDWISE Monitor Report 2021 is a comprehensive annual report looking at five to 16-year-olds’ media consumption, purchasing and social habits as well as key behaviour.

“We interviewed almost 2,000 children and have detailed and independent data on children and their experience of the lockdown,” advises Simon Leggett, research director at CHILDWISE.

The amount of time children spend online has increased and is now an average of 3.8 hours a day, up from 3.4 last year. TikTok is dominating children’s social networking, helping them to cope with lockdown.

“Half of children say they are spending more time outdoors than usual or have discovered some new activity to do when stuck indoors. And despite not seeing their friends physically, the vast majority say their friendships have stayed strong in lockdown,” notes Leggett.

“Young people, especially those close to taking their GCSEs, are worried about falling behind with their schoolwork, and the long-term effect this will have on their education, but amongst older children, there is agreement that the reduced pressure on them actually resulted in them being happier not going to school. However, remote learning is a novelty that divides opinion, and the majority would rather not continue learning in this way, “ he reports.

“Half of young people experienced the disruption of parents having to work from home, being furloughed from work, or worse, losing their jobs altogether. As difficult as these situations are for children to deal with, most young people saw the positives, saying that they had spent more time with their family, and have really benefitted from this extra time with them in lockdown.”

“Social media and gaming have helped children deal with a tough year, creating a sense of togetherness when they are often online alone in their room and helping them stay in touch with friends. TikTok use increased among children under lockdown. Perhaps scrolling the app showed children how others were dealing with the challenges of 2020, providing light relief with memes and musicals and dance challenges creating a sense of togetherness with everybody learning and performing the exact same choreography,” he adds.

Children are spending more time watching video content and gaming with Roblox especially popular. Among Us, a multiplayer social deduction game, also enters the favourites chart.

“Social media and online games have helped children to maintain their friendships from afar, and some of the big brands that have thrived under lockdown are TikTok, Roblox and Among Us,” says Simon.

Findings of the report include:


  • Time spent online increases from 3.4- 3.8 hours a day, with the largest increase this year among those aged 11-12, who spend 4.2 hours online per day (up from 3.3 hours last year).
  • The number of children (aged 5-16) saying they have a computer of some sort at home has increased slightly since last year (96 per cent up from 94 per cent)-All devices at home have increased this year (e.g., computers in home, tablet, laptop, smart speaker, desktop)
  • An increasing number of children access the Internet in their own room (83 per cent up from 80 per cent last year).
  • This year, girls are more likely than boys to have their own device/ computer (90 per cent girls, 83 per cent boys).


  • TikTok usage continues to increase and is the most used app/website among the list of social networking sites shown.
  • Gaming app Among us (5 per cent choosing it) enters the favourite chart this year
  • The proportion of children naming a social gaming site has doubled this year, with 16 per cent now naming one (was 8 per cent last year).
  • YouTube remains the top website/ app amongst 7-16 year olds. Although, YouTube’s popularity continues to decrease, whereas TikTok (in second place) continues to gain ground this year, after nearly doubling in popularity


  • Daily usage has dropped back only marginally, but mainly among the youngest children aged five-six(41 per cent, was 52 per cent)
  • But, overall, children still watch for the same number of hours at 2.3 hours a day
  • Interest in gaming content has increased most (34 per cent, was 27 per cent), though Sidemen (a non-gaming channel) are the top favourite YouTube channel – light relief?


  • Time playing is up (to 3.1 from 2.7)
  • Games console rise in importance (over mobile) with release of PS5 and Xbox S/X series
  • Roblox especially popular (unfortunately Among us was not in the list)

Viewing Habits

  • Time spent watching video content has increased, now clocking up over three hours (3.3, was 2.9)
  • Almost half of children (46 per cent) say that the majority of their viewing is on demand, rising from two in five (39 per cent) last year – gradually tipping towards a majority of children now
  • Gaming consoles overtake the tablet for the first time as a favoured device for on demand viewing, with more than two in five using (43 per cent). Use has risen especially among the youngest children age seven-eight (43 per cent, from 26 per cent last year).

Services and Content

  • Viewing of TV declines among seven-16s, both non-children’s channels and children’s channels, but especially the latter, falling to two in five (42 per cent) from almost three in five last year (56 per cent)
  • Use of Netflix rises this year to four in five (79 per cent) from two in three (67 per cent) last year.
  • Broadly, use of paid-for on demand services have increased while free-services are in decline
  • When asked about their favourite TV programme, YouTube (4 per cent) is now coming up top, for the first time, having been increasing in mentions for the last four years. This is followed by Friends (3 per cent) (top three for the last three years now) and Netflix (3 per cent), followed by The Vampire Diaries and The Next Step (both 2 per cent)

Mobile phones

  • The number of children with a mobile phone has increased for the second consecutive year, with levels now equal to the peak recorded back in 2008. 73 per cent now have their own handset (up from 69 per cent last year).
  • Half of five-10 year olds now have a handset (50 per cent, up from 47 per cent)
  • Time spent using a mobile phone (for non-call features) has increased by 12 minutes this year (3.5 hours, up from 3.3)
  • There are fewer light users this year (<2 hours), more moderate users (2-5 hours), and no change among the heaviest users (6+ hours)
  • Girls out-use boys at every age break
  • All but two of the listed phone activities have increased this year, with children completing 8.8 (out of 13) on average, up from 7.3 last year.
  • Sending messages, accessing the Internet and making calls are the top three activities. Navigational tools and virtual reality are the only two features to have fallen this year


  • 41 per cent of children continued to attend school during the first lockdown (full time or part time)
  • 49 per cent of seven-16 year olds experienced the disruption of a parent or guardian setting up a home office when they would normally work elsewhere, a parent or guardian being furloughed, or even a parent or guardian being made redundant or losing their job
  • 45 per cent worry they have fallen behind in their schoolwork, highest among 11-16 year old girls
  • 77 per cent agree that their friendships have stayed strong during lockdown – boys become more confident with age, whereas marginally fewer girls agree with age. Girls are also more likely to disagree with age
  • 45 per cent of seven-16 year olds agree that they’re worried about falling behind with school work during lockdown, rising to 51 per cent among 11-16 year old girls
  • 77 per cent feel their friendships have stayed strong during lockdown – boys become more confident with age, whereas marginally fewer girls agree with age
  • 44 per cent agree that lockdown will not have a long-term effect on their education – a third disagree (36 per cent) and one in five are unsure either way (20 per cent)
  • 70 per cent feel they have benefitted from spending more time with family during lockdown
  • On balance, 11-16 year olds are most likely to agree that they felt happier not going to school during lockdown (52 per cent). One in three disagree (33 per cent) and 14 per cent are unsure either way
  • 58 per cent of 11-16s felt there was less pressure on them during lockdown
  • 33 per cent of 11-16s agree that they felt lonely or isolated during lockdown, rising to 39 per cent among girls this age
  • 41 per cent of 11-16s enjoyed remote learning – very little difference between girls and boys
  • 36 per cent of 11-16s would like to continue remote learning (45 per cent disagree). Agreement is marginally higher among girls (39 per cent vs. 35 per cent), but girls are also marginally more likely to disagree (46 per cent vs. 44 per cent)


  • Little Mix are children’s favourite group this year (5 per cent choosing them)
  • Increasing number of children use a mobile phone to listen to music (68 per cent up from 63 per cent).
  • YouTube remains the most frequently used site for listening to music (71 per cent of nine-16s).



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