Life in Lockdown

Just how have children been spending most of their time in lockdown? Learning? Exploring? Spending quality time with their families?



TikTok time warp

During our lockdown instalment of Children’s Media Lives for Ofcom, the children we spoke to were unsurprisingly spending most of their time gaming or consuming online content. The winning platform amongst our sample was certainly TikTok. Like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that came before, it’s the new big thing and is overwhelmingly the platform of choice for young people. It’s hit the jackpot with short-form content that’s easy to watch, share and copy.

Many of the children we spoke to were spending a huge proportion of their waking hours on the app to “kill time”, and spare time was something many of the children had plenty of.

The most watched TikTok videos are posted by social media stars like Charli D’Amelio, who at the age of 16 has over 76 million followers on the platform. Many feature viral short dance routines which the children in our study would copy and upload themselves. It’s hugely aspirational and many wanted to emulate the images and videos of their favourite TikTokkers.

Lockdown body

This copycat behaviour was also prevalent amongst the girls in our sample around exercise. Many of the girls were being influenced by videos on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok to be more active during the lockdown. While exercise is a generally positive behaviour, many of the accounts the girls were emulating focussed on achieving the perfect body, rather than just becoming fit and healthy. 

For example, influencer Chloe Ting, popular amongst some of our sample, posts videos called “25 days slim thighs challenge”, “Hourglass: Abs & butt programme”, very much perpetuating the idea of an ideal body shape that some of the teenage girls we spoke to were keen to achieve themselves, and portray in their own social media posts.

Emulating idols

We’ve been tracking these children over 7 years and are in the unique position of being able to compare directly their behaviours in lockdown to what they were doing before. We’ve seen over the years the increasing importance to children of curating their online image.

An embodiment of that is the changing styles of filters on apps like Snapchat. Whereas just a couple of years ago jokey filters like dog faces and ageing apps were popular amongst our sample across age groups, now filters are much more focused on enhancing looks – with contouring style effects such as smaller noses and bigger eyes and lips. This is geared towards presenting a perfect image of themselves, like the social media celebrities they see every day.

Trying to look and behave like their favourite stars has always been very important to the children in our study but the amount of time they have been able to dedicate to consuming and emulating social media content, and access to the tools they need to do, has increased dramatically during lockdown…