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Big Data: Glued to the 'Tube

A man checks a mobile device while standing against an illuminated wall bearing YouTube's logo.Bloomberg

73 percent

Almost three quarters of adults in the United States say they use YouTube, and among those ages 18 to 24, that number leaps to 90 percent, according to a Pew Research Center study conducted earlier this year. That’s a reach that other social media platforms can only envy — even Facebook, despite its seeming ubiquity, can only claim 69 percent of US adults as users. And the data show that YouTube users keep coming back despite reservations about some of the material they find there.

Among parents of children age 11 or younger, more than eight in 10 say they sometimes let their child watch videos on the streaming platform, and more than a third said they regularly park their little ones in front of a YouTube screen, even though 61 percent of those parents surveyed said they have encountered programming they thought was inappropriate for kids.

It’s not just a question of being family friendly, either. Nearly two-thirds of adult YouTube users in the US said in a 2018 survey that they have found videos on the platform that appeared to be false or misleading. A slightly smaller number said they had seen YouTube videos of people acting in ways that were dangerous or troubling. Only 12 percent reported having never seen a YouTube video that appeared to be false, and 11 percent said they had seen videos that were abusive or demeaning toward someone.


Despite the platform’s popularity, and the infinite variety of its offerings, a lot of people are watching the same things. Among the roughly 44,000 YouTube channels with 250,000 or more subscribers, the busiest 10 percent of channels uploaded 70 percent of the content in the first week of this year, according to Pew. And among those videos, the most popular 10 percent attracted nearly 80 percent of the views that week.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.