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Kids and Media: Four Trends to Watch in 2023

Our 2022 research highlights where government and industry can do more to support and protect our kids.

Young girl wearing headphones and watching tablet

In 2022, Common Sense Media continued our crucial work of studying how kids consume media. Our research agenda provides up-to-date insights on the rapidly evolving media and technology landscape, and how it impacts young people's growth and development.

Throughout the year, we advanced research on kids and media in several important areas: kids' experiences in virtual reality and the "metaverse"; how diversity is represented on platforms including YouTube; equitable access and the digital divide; and a deep dive into how tweens and teens use media—from their viewing habits and the platforms they prefer to how they're using and being affected by social media.

As we look back on 2022, here are four trends that stand out for us, along with questions on what's next—for our own research and for industry leaders.

Digital and Media Trends to Watch for Kids and Teens

Industry should set standards now to protect kids in the evolving metaverse.
As virtual reality headsets grow in popularity and kids step into the emerging metaverse, poor privacy scores for VR headsets have raised the flag on privacy concerns. Every single device we reviewed in our report this year put kids' and families' personal privacy or safety at serious risk in one way or another.

Spending 30 minutes or more in VR can create over 2 million unique data points, from where and how long we look at something, to whether our skin is perspiring, and minute fluctuations in skin color. As a result, kids may unintentionally share personal biometric data on their private interactions and emotions. That data can be used for myriad marketing purposes, including a new type of biometric personalized advertising that can be more invasive and exploitative. (Privacy of Virtual Reality: Our Future in the Metaverse and Beyond)

Let's explore in 2023: How can we get ahead of the growing metaverse and begin to create policies that protect kids' access, privacy, and representation in the metaverse and beyond?

Policymakers and communities can finally close the digital divide.
By ensuring that everyone has access to affordable high-speed internet, devices, and the skills to use the internet effectively, the quality and efficiency of essential services can be improved for everyone.

As an example, with high-speed internet, health care patients gain better and faster access to services, telemedicine, medication maintenance, and appointment scheduling. It's also easier for those outside of major metros to access specialists, including mental health providers. When barriers are removed, families are more likely to access the care they need, and providers are more likely to invest in their online services.

Among patients who recently used telehealth, 73% reported they would continue to use telehealth services in the future, and 41% reported they would have chosen telehealth over an in-person appointment, even if both required a co-pay. (Closing the Digital Divide Benefits Everyone, Not Just the Unconnected, with Boston Consulting Group)

Let's explore in 2023: One year into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and almost two years since the American Rescue Plan, how can we better understand how states are leveraging these important funds to connect their communities?

YouTube can take the lead to set a new standard for diverse, representative kids' media.
Despite holding power and influence with kids and teens, YouTube is falling short when it comes to promoting diversity and realistic ethnic-racial representations. Many kids of color aren't seeing people who look like them in the videos they watch, and they often see stereotypes or biased content, which can negatively impact their developing identities.

Common Sense found that 62% of YouTube videos watched by kids 8 and under didn't feature any Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) characters, and another 10% showed shallow or stereotypical portrayals. (Who Is the "You" in YouTube?: Missed Opportunities in Race and Representation in Children's YouTube Videos)

Let's explore in 2023: How can YouTube and other platforms promote content from diverse, lesser-known creators, including those from racial/ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ communities?

It's time to take a closer look at how social media affects kids' mental well-being.
Media use for tweens and teens continues to grow at a faster rate, and the landscape is changing quickly. In addition to consumption habits, our research looked at the content of the media that young people engage with, how they use it, and how they respond to it, focusing particularly on social media.

Teens (13- to 18-year-olds) now spend nearly an hour and a half a day using social media, but they have conflicted feelings about the medium. Only a third (34%) of teens say they enjoy using social media "a lot," compared with 62% who say they enjoy watching online videos that much. (The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2021)

Let's explore in 2023: How is the use of social platforms affecting kids' and teens' mental health and self-image, and how can we help parents and trusted adults support them?

Supreet Mann

Supreet Mann is a research manager at Common Sense. She holds a PhD in communication and a master's degree in child development from the University of California, Davis. Her research uses a developmental lens to consider the role of social influences on children's socio-emotional outcomes, including prosocial behavior, risk-taking, and learning. In addition to presenting her work at national and international conferences, Supreet has published her work in a variety of academic journals, including Journal of Children and Media, Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, and Journal of Child and Family Studies.