Millennial parents are raising their Gen Z and Gen Alpha children with plenty of internet access—and more than just platforms made only for kids. YPulse data shows that 79% of Millennial parents say their children are social media users of one platform or another. And we know what you’re thinking: What can four-year-olds possibly be updating their status about? But for Millennials’ kids, the majority of whom are younger than 9-years-old, social media is a mainstream form of entertainment. While the oldest of Gen Z were five when YouTube was created, those younger have never known a world without video content at their fingertips, and Gen Alpha will probably grow up unable to even imagine one.
But Gen Alpha and Gen Z kids are using more social media platforms than just those with dedicated spaces for their youngest users. Many video platforms (like streaming services and YouTube) have incorporated kid’s accounts, knowing that most parents are handing off a device for their child’s entertainment now and want to give them the freedom to pick their content without worries about appropriateness. But other social media platforms (like the ever-growing TikTok) don’t have the same kid-friendly offer, especially as many technically have minimum age limits for users that are older than most Millennials’ kids are.
To see which platforms are having the most contact with the youngest generation of social media users, YPulse’s new Gen Alpha Spotlight report shows which platforms Millennial parents say their kids are currently using, from a list of 38 options:
YouTube is the top platform their children are using
YouTube is the top social media platform that Millennial parents say their children use. like As mentioned earlier, YouTube is a Millennial parent favorite for their YouTube Kids content separator and is host to tons of Gen Alpha favorites. Perhaps the most notorious is CoCoMelon, a channel whose main audience is toddlers, and which has racked up billions of views since it exploded during the pandemic. It’s outpacing just about every kids show out there in view time (and honestly, a ton of adult shows, too since it was added to Netflix), and some think it’s due in part to the normalcy of the routines depicted in the songs and animations, “with 62% [of parent] viewers surveyed agreeing that their kids can learn good habits from the show.” There’s also an educational aspect that the show provides: its repetitive nature teaches kids early literacy skills, helps them learn new words, and teaches them about story structure—making it a parent favorite.
YouTube also has content for kids by kids, or rather, from the parents of kids. Take “Ryan’s World,” a channel of one child’s genuine reaction to new toys with nearly 33 million subscribers and counting, as just one example of how big “kidfluencers” really are. Ten-year-old Ryan Kaji has his name on hundreds of products that his equally young viewers can ask their parents to buy for them. Thanks to young Gen Z and Gen Alpha viewers, toy unboxing videos are some of the most popular content on the platform.
But TikTok is the second, and is growing in use for the youngest gen
TikTok’s audience is of course Gen Z, and YPulse data doesn’t see that changing anytime soon. For older Gen Z, TikTok is their generation’s social media platform of choice. And as the youngest of Gen Z (and soon enough, Gen Alpha) get old enough to log on, they surely are, as data from parents shows their children’s TikTok usership steadily increasing. YPulse data shows that in May of 2022, 26% of Millennial parents said their kids used TikTok, compared to 34% who said so in November of 2022. So, while YPulse has predicted that TikTok’s overall growth is bound to plateau in the coming year, it will more than likely still have a slow and steady stream of Gen Z sign-ups—as Millennial parents allow them to. One recent study even showed kids are moving from YouTube to TikTok around age 10, meaning the usership number for Gen Alpha and Gen Z on these platforms may continue to grow closer.
Though older Gen Z seems to run the app, there is still a wealth of content for the youngest users that even parents approve of. One uber-popular creator as of late is Ms Rachel (@MsRachelForLittles), a content creator for kids and their Millennial parents that has 2.4M followers. While she also makes YouTube videos, she and other kid’s content creators know how many young ones are now on TikTok, so they’re making sure that the platform is full of safe and engaging content, too. Aside from kid-friendly educational content, there’s also tons of sensory videos on TikTok—read: slime ASMR—which YPulse data shows Gen Z loves.
And TikTok does, of course, know about their young usership and has taken steps to give Millennial parents (who know firsthand what content is on the app) peace of mind. Their updated Safety Center features several resources including the Guardians Guide, which explains how the app’s tools can help users have a positive experience, videos outlining how TikTok enforces its Community Guidelines, links to resources on issues like digital literacy and well-being, and a bullying prevention guide.
One in five of their children do not use social media yet
Behind the top three platforms Millennials’ kids are using, their fourth top answer is that their children don’t use any (21%). More than a third of Millennials’ kids are only newborn-to-four-years-old currently, meaning Gen Alpha themselves are likely not navigating a social site for content quite yet. Though, studies are showing that toddlers are becoming adept at navigating smart devices on their own—mastering functions from simple ones, like changing the volume, to more complex maneuvers like entering a passcode (meaning they’re probably already better than tech than their grandparents).
Another factor to consider in not using social media is how many young Gen Z and Gen Alpha are playing video games, which function as social spaces as much as Instagram does for older Gen Z and Millennials—if not more because of their interactivity. YPulse’s Metaverse trend report shows 50% of Millennial parents say their children play virtual world games, which means they have access to metaverse spaces they can hang out with friends in, meet people from across the world, and consume content from brands and other players alike. But their parents likely don’t consider these games “social media platforms” like they do with the ones meeting the traditional definition, but their children certainly use them as much—if not more.