New research from Ofcom suggests a growing trend among children to engage in “split-screening,” in which they divide their smartphone screens to watch multiple social media videos at once.
Rather than being satisfied with the single, attention-grabbing clips that apps like TikTok and Instagram offer, young people are stacking videos on each other, even when the clips have no connection.
This is an evolution of the “multi-screening” behaviour previously identified by Ofcom, where children reported difficulty focusing on a single screen-based activity.
Ofcom found that 96% of children aged three to 17 watch online videos, with more than half (58%) watching live-streamed content.
Short-form videos on platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat are growing in popularity, with features introduced to limit usage and promote safety.
The most popular videos with children are engineered to grab attention with minimal efforts, such as “reaction” or “commentary” videos.
Less than a third of children post their own videos online.
Children become more self-conscious about their online image as social media content becomes increasingly well-produced.
Previous research has warned of over-dependence on “likes” to boost self-esteem.
Commentary: The trend of split-screening raises concerns about the impact of excessive social media use on children’s attention spans and ability to focus on a single task.
It also highlights the increasing pressure on young people to constantly consume and produce content on social media platforms.
The popularity of short-form videos on TikTok and Snapchat is particularly worrying.
These apps are designed to keep users engaged for as long as possible, leading to potential addiction and negative impacts on mental health.
While introducing safety features and usage limits is a step in the right direction, parents and educators need to be aware of the risks associated with social media and work to promote healthy usage habits among young people.