In our talk we examine teenage engagement with YouTube tutorials. Based on a representative large-scale classroom survey in Germany, we shed light on highly popular yet hardly understood viewing and self-learning practices afforded by social media platforms.
More than 90 percent of U.S. 18 to 24-year-olds use YouTube regularly which tops any other social media offering. The same study also found that more than half of YouTube users rely on the service to figure out how to do things or understand things happening in the world (Smith et al., 2018). Of young German internet users (14 to 19 years), 21 percent reported watching YouTube tutorials, documentaries, and explanatory formats on various topics, from school to leisure, several times a week, while another 25 percent agreed that the platform had expanded their skills and knowledge (Feierabend et al., 2018; Jörissen, 2019).
Yet despite the obvious popularity, we have little knowledge about the types of content and the sort of YouTube creators’ teenagers like to watch. Our study fills that gap and provides insights into what young German users prefer to watch – both as leisure activities as well as for learning curricular topics. We cluster favorite types of channels and popular genres and look into the kinds of content these channels produce. Additionally, we explore variations in taste in relation to gender differences and study the linguistic preferences among young users.
The talk uses data from a survey of about 1.000 German secondary school students between 14 and 18 years. The questionnaire was available on tablets and distributed during class. The responses allow us to examine and statistically analyze digital learning practices around topics of formal school education and vocational orientation as well as in terms of more interest-based pastimes.
Our findings suggest that the most popular creators are young and predominantly male. They provide gaming, comedy, or vlog-style content and often a mix of these. When asked about their favorite channels, pupils of same age but from different forms of school named a common set which suggests a constellation of related channels that appeal to a cohort of young users. The most popular clusters formed around creators that specialized in school-related content, football content, or were the channels of TV comedians, both German and American. Content published my female creators was less often named and these channels fell apart into smaller, loosely connected clusters.