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YouTube rivals TV for young viewers

News, 23 November 2015

LONDON: Young UK teens are now more likely to prefer watching YouTube videos than TV programmes according to a new Ofcom report which also finds few are able to distinguish online search ads.

The Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report, based on 1,279 in-home interviews with parents and children aged 5 to 15, found that 29% of 12-15 year olds would rather watch YouTube videos compared to the 25% who chose TV first.

That marked a turnaround from a similar study in 2014, when 25% opted for YouTube first and 30% for TV.

Observing the growing influence of "digital intermediaries" as sources for content for this generation, the report noted that "they are also seen by some children as legitimating brands, helping to vouchsafe the veracity or trustworthiness of content accessed through their sites".

For example, a small but increasing proportion of online 12-15 year olds now turn to YouTube for true and accurate information about serious things going on in the world (8% vs. 3% in 2014).

In fact, the proportion of children in this age group who think that that the information on news websites and apps is "always true" has roughly doubled in the past year, from 8% to 14%.

Similarly, one in five 12-15 year olds using search engines believed that if these list information then it must be true. But half were able to make some type of critical judgement about search engine results.

That faculty did not extend to spotting the advertisements thrown up in the course of a search.

When shown a picture of results returned by Google for an online search for 'trainers', their attention was drawn to the first two results at the top of the list, which were distinguished by an orange box with the word 'Ad' written in it. Just 31% of 12-15 year olds correctly identified these sponsored links as advertising.

But they fared better in regard to vlogging, as 47% were aware of the potential for vloggers to be paid for endorsing products or brands.

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff