DOI: 10.1177/20563051231216931 ISSN: 2056-3051

Addressing the “Whys” of UK Children’s YouTube Use: A Purposes Approach

Fiona Scott, Becky Parry, Jackie Marsh, Jamal Lahmar, Beth Nutbrown, Emilie Scholey, Patrizia Baldi, Lily Law, Dylan Yamada-Rice
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Communication
  • Cultural Studies

Despite the widespread use of YouTube by children, there has been limited research undertaken on the “why” questions of their use. Past theoretical approaches have framed these questions in terms of broader individual needs and their relation to media use, though this work has mainly focused on adults and adolescents. This article presents relevant findings from a mixed methods study of children’s (aged 0–16) uses of social media in the United Kingdom to consider instead the “purposes” of children’s YouTube use, drawing on: (1) an online family survey; (2) family case studies; (3) child focus groups; and (4) child telephone interviews. “Purpose” is theorized in the article in relation to the ways children themselves make sense of and articulate the reasons they use YouTube or, in the case of parents and carers, for allowing, facilitating, or encouraging their children to use YouTube. Parents tended to frame the purposes of children’s YouTube use more instrumentally, focusing on perceived educational benefits and their own convenience needs. While sharing a focus on instrumental purposes, children sometimes emphasized broader dimensions of purpose, with an increased focus on humor, sensory, and hedonic dimensions. Children’s responses also emphasized the autotelic nature of play. The study foregrounded the extent to which the purposes of others (such as commercial entities) are served by children’s YouTube use. Seven child-centered, parent-centered, and “other” purposes for children’s YouTube use are discussed: cognitive, corporeal, cultural, collaborative, creative, commercial, and convenience.

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