Understanding the Digital Natives: How Do Kids Find and Connect with their Favorite Content?

9 July, 2020

Today’s kids may be less likely to sit in front of a TV set and more likely to sit in front of a tablet, smartphone, or laptop. These changes in children's content consumption behaviors are also reflected in their journey in finding and connecting with their next favorite TV show. As families and children become more integrated in digital spaces, their behaviors provide insights into the stories and characters that both children love and parents approve.

In this analysis, Parrot Analytics provides insight into the increasingly digital lives and TV preferences of children around the world. We reveal how children's development is reflected in they ways demand is expressed for kids titles and how this can inform strategy.

Understanding the Digital Natives: How Do Kids Find and Connect with their Favorite Content?

In 2019, Game of Thrones, the fantasy drama spanning eight seasons, was the most in-demand series globally, shocking no one. Knowing the power the tentpole series held over audiences around the world, the win was expected to say the least, especially since 2019 was the year of the much anticipated series finale.

What some might find surprising, is that somehow a little pig from the UK accumulated over 3x times the subscribers of the behemoth GOT series on YouTube. While, in most day-to-day conversations adults may not have heard of the character from the titular series Peppa Pig, parents and those working in children’s content understand its dominance amongst children. They also understand why Peppa Pig is the behemoth in the YouTube space.


The proliferation of platforms and screens has not only affected adults—it’s penetrated the children’s market. In 2018, PEW Research Center found that the majority (81%) of US parents allow their children to watch content on YouTube at least sometimes, if not regularly. Common Sense Media, in that same year, found that 60% of parents reported that their child has their own mobile devices, while 14% said their child shares a device with others. These percentages have likely increased since 2018. Advertisers have been monetizing the digital space accordingly, understanding the financial power of the younger age demographic. Forecasts for 2021 in the US project an estimated 1.7 billion projected to stem from digital advertising formats in the children’s space, showcasing their power.

But to be effective in the children’s space, is to understand how they consume content—which is absolutely different than their adult counterparts. In other words, strategic decisions require taking into account children’s content consumption behaviors as well as their content options. As Netflix and other digital streamers invest in the kids space increasing consumers’ options, the challenge of having maximal impact space also increases.

How Do Consumer Journeys Provide Roadmaps for Strategy?

Leveraging demand, we can uncover the ways children are expressing interest in content and how children differ from adults in order to inform children’s content strategy, distribution decisions, acquisition optimization, and marketing. Like adults, children, perhaps with the supervision of their parents, demand content via a variety of digital avenues: social media (i.e. twitter), social video (i.e. youtube), research (i.e. wikipedia) and finally downloading/streaming (P2P).

Kids vs. non-kids: Differences in content demand and monetization

The largest difference in non-kids and kids’ expression of content demand is within their engagement in piracy and social video. More than double the demand share for kids content comes from social video as compared to adults. The increased share in social video appears to predominantly stolen or lost from the piracy bucket, where children’s content is pirated at less than a third of adult’s content.


In Chart 1 above, we reviewed over 10,000 series and compared the signals of demand from content that was for “Kids,” or content targeted to children under 13 years of age, compared to “Non-Kids,” inclusive of all other content.

Consequences for content monetization

While adults might use spaces like YouTube to engage with clips and trailers of their preferred content, children are more likely to watch full episodes of their favorite shows right on the platform. While piracy can often appear to be a lost opportunity for monetization for non-kids content, for kid’s content YouTube's demand can represent both lost and gained monetization opportunity. In other words, kids’ parents do not need to pirate content when social video provide options for their child to consume their favorite shows. Either content is cannibalized or kids content may be more frequently monetized on OTT platforms or linear channels as well as on YouTube as a second or third window.

While research and social media demand are less common amongst kids content compared to adults, these differences are not as large. We might assume that adults engage in more research activity and social media conversations about their content than their children would. However, parents and children may be just as likely to rely on research and social media to pick, or stumble upon, preferred content.

Informed strategic decisions can be made by evaluating the specific series of interest and comparing the demand type against the overall children’s series averages. If a particular series generates higher than average social activity, for example, a potential recommendation might be shifting marketing investment into the brand’s social environments to amplify the current behavior. Similarly, high research activity might indicate an opportunity to invest in search. Additionally, evaluating when each activity is usually at its highest for a specific subgenre of children’s series can provide insight into the optimal timing for marketing investments.

How Does Children’s Development Impact How They Express Demand?

Between the ages of 0 and 13, children undergo perhaps the most rapid changes to their brains, minds, and bodies as they are developing. Most children’s content creators recognize that changes physical and psychological abilities create differences in content interests. So, how does their development change the ways they express demand?

Younger children’s content, targeted to those below 5, have the greatest amount of demand expressed via social video consumption. This makes sense since younger children are perhaps most capable of engaging in this relatively passive behavior—one that they can do over and over again to their liking without any help.

School-aged children’s content (targeted to those between the ages of 5 and 12), on the other hand, involved expressing demand more frequently via social media, research and downloading/streaming (P2P). For the younger children in the school-aged group, some of this participation might be with the aid of a parent. Yet, as children develop more physical dexterity and ability to think independently, transitioning into tweens and eventually teenager, they engage in more active forms of expressing interest.


In Chart 2 (above), we dove into the Top 200 most in-demand children’s shows in the US comparing content by the ages of children they target: the “pre-school” group reflects those under and the “school” group reflects content targeted for kids between 5-12.

Thus demand expressions reveal that as children develop, they gain more skills in navigating digital spaces. These digital spaces become easily accessible—even in the piracy space to the dismay of some. For school aged kids (5-12), they tend to be more interactive across the internet/digital space so it’s important to have a clear and strong presence. For younger children (under 5), take full advantage of the presence on Youtube by releasing some episodes in full, for example, since they are already spending significant time in the space. Consumption of children’s content patterns reflect the developmental phases of the audience as they increasingly gain autonomy over the content they consume.

What are the Outcomes of an Increasingly Digital Generation?

While evaluating behavior is key to activating and optimizing the digital spaces children frequent, it’s equally important to holistically understand their content options. With content creators increasingly shifting to SVOD spaces, and Disney even doubling down on its Disney+ service in the UK, removing the linear counterpart, many have been left wondering — how engaged are children on OTT services? Are OTT services prominent within the kids space?

Despite the largely digital lives of new generations of kids, OTTs’ titles or digital originals appear to have just begun to capture kids attention. In the past rolling year, 12% of the 200 most in-demand 200 children’s series are digital originals, or content available first on a OTT platform (see Chart 3 below). The lion’s share of those series (16 of 23) are available on Netflix with a handful on YouTube.


Currently, the majority of the top children’s content still was originally released on and likely produced by a linear platform. Some of these have opted to double their reach by releasing more recent seasons on both linear channels and OTTs.

Yet, the tide is shifting towards such that are more highly in-demand OTT digital original children’s shows. The increasing rate of outstanding and exceptional digital original kids shows is faster rate than of titles for non-kids.


Chart 4 (above) evaluates the most in-demand 500 overall series by month for both the “Kids” and “Non-Kids” categories. The % reflects the percentage of digital originals among all series for that category.

In the “Non-Kids” category, there’s been a slight increase in percentage of digital originals being included within the Top 500 ranking, but the “Kids” category is significantly more drastic. In May 2020, “Kids” digital originals demanded the highest share within the overall Top 500, showcasing the increasing demand of kids content in the SVOD space.

Understanding kids is more important than ever

With the increase of kids targeted digital originals, OTT entrants such as Disney+ in key markets, and children’s usage in the digital space, we can anticipate a greater shift of demand from linear to OTT in the coming years. To break through the clutter in the kids space and maintain a decent share of the audiences’ ever divided attention will mean clearly understanding where they spend their time in the first place along with what other content is fighting for a slice of their time.


Parrot Analytics complies with all COPPA and GDRP regulations in our data capturing and reporting methodologies.

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