Fortnite Water Works

At the beginning of July, London-based market research agency, Critical Research, spoke to some children about their gaming habits, how the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact, and if they envisaged these habits changing during the summer holidays.

Ofcom’s 2021 Media Report, the Digital Divide, identified that with children staying home from school and leisure or sporting activities cancelled, many parents admitted finding it more difficult to set limits and control the amount of time their children spent on screens during the last year. This was the case for 40% of parents of 5-15 year-olds, and 30% of parents of pre-schoolers.

And in the August edition of Campaign, according to Samsung, global gaming habits continued to rise in the first half of 2021.  

Now, these children are back in education, and the summer holidays are a distant memory, have their gaming habits actually changed?

The holidays were kicked off with Freedom Day, the chance to get out into the real world, see friends and loved ones, and enjoy the summer. 

The summer holidays of 2021 certainly seem to have been the circuit breaker with children’s gaming habits.  The majority of the children that we spoke to correctly predicted that they would be gaming less during the holidays. 

The best thing about the summer holidays wasn’t the ability to spend more time gaming, but to be outside, spending that time playing with friends.

Now the children have returned to school and a somewhat normal routine, they don’t appear to be in any sort of rush to go back to the same volume of gaming that they were doing pre-summer holidays.  In fact, it doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the same appeal as it did.

Roblox male character with a sad face.

A key insight is that most of these children have grown tired of the online games they were playing, with Fortnite and Roblox being ditched for the likes of SIMS, Rogue Company, and FIFA.  One game that seems to still hold its appeal is Minecraft.  Their perceptions have also changed, with the realisation that virtual currencies such as V-Bucks and Robux give no in-game advantage.

However, according to VGR’s post on the popularity of Fortnite, it seems Epic Games has very little to worry about with 3.5 million online players.

What they would rather spend their time and money on is watching YouTube Streamers.  The younger children we spoke to watch Streamers, whether it’s to get hints and tips on their favourite games, or games that they aspire to play.  They are spending a lot of their time live streaming, listening, and perhaps being encouraged and influenced by these people.  There are ways to monitor and control what children are watching on YouTube, with parental controls.

YouTube Streamer Dan TDM

What gaming does still provide is the ability to interact with friends when they are not together, and this is still a big draw for them.  We know that playing and interacting through online gaming can be beneficial in terms of social development if it is done in moderation.  This includes the need for time limits on screen time, parental controls, monitoring what a child is playing, and a healthy balance with the real world.

Lego man holding the control button off a computer keyboard.

So it appears that gaming levels and screen time amongst children may well take a hit over the coming months.  However, with the nights drawing in, school work completed, and children home before dark is it just a matter of time before we see those levels return to what they were pre-summer?

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