Half of YouTube viewers use it to learn how to do things they’ve never done

The first time I put on a tie, I uploaded a YouTube video. Whenever I want to do something new in a program like Ableton, Premiere, or Photoshop, I search YouTube. I also learned how to cook a few things from YouTube videos. These are just the kinds of educational research that I am willing to accept; there are far too many embarrassing ones that will accompany me to my grave. But I’m not the only one using YouTube as a kind of digital school.

A new Pew research study that surveyed 4,594 Americans in 2018 found that 51% of YouTube users said they rely on the video service to learn how to do new things, and the service was found to be important for both regular and irregular users. “That equates to 35% of all American adults, once site users and non-users are taken into account,” the study said.

Here are the top “how to” searches to date (note that global sensation fortnite appears more than once):

Education isn’t the only reason to use YouTube, of course. Twenty-eight% of users say they are on YouTube just to pass the time (many of these users are young adults), 19% are there for advice on new purchases, while 19% say they use YouTube to help them understand what is going on in the world.

This pretty much matches the way I use YouTube. Seeing a product in action and getting a review from an average user is extremely helpful. I definitely looked up from my screen at 3am in horror after falling into an unfortunate YouTube rabbit hole that totally messed up my recommendations module. And while I would say I rely more on actual news sources for world events, I still watch hot takes on YouTube as well. The personalities on the platform have an undeniable appeal, even if they represent an ideology you don’t agree with.

While YouTube may not seem like the best source of information – it has a well-documented problem with conspiracy theories and misinformation – the video site’s prominence as a medium comes largely from power users. “Some 32% of users who visit the site several times a day – and 19% of those who visit it once a day – say it is very important in helping them understand what is happening in the world,” the study says. “This compares to 10% of users visiting less often.” Despite the site’s ubiquity and importance, 64% of respondents said they sometimes find “obviously fake” videos, 60% say they occasionally encounter videos depicting dangerous behavior, and 11% say they “regularly” see abusive content. on the website.

In addition to learning why people are on YouTube, the study also looked at children’s viewing habits. Apparently, 81% of parents allow their kids to watch videos on YouTube, and 34% of those parents allow their kids to be on the platform “regularly.” Sixty percent of those same parents say they’ve seen content that wasn’t age-appropriate on YouTube, which makes sense, considering there’s a whole cottage industry out there to get kids to watch messed-up nursery rhyme videos. . Research shows that the rise of YouTube videos for kids is bolstered by the system itself: one-fifth of the most recommended videos in the study were for kids, with an animated clip being the “most recommended video” across the board. ‘study. May the song Baby Shark have mercy on our souls.

For people who regularly use YouTube, much of this won’t seem new, but it’s still fascinating to see the numbers backing up common knowledge. You can read the whole study here.

Shirley K. Rosa