YouTube personalities are displacing rugby and rock stars in the lives of many young Kiwis.

A new Netsafe survey of just over 2000 youngsters aged 9 to 17 has found that 90 per cent watched video clips on YouTube or other video channels in the past week - far ahead of any other online activity.

And six students at Auckland's mid-decile Birkdale Intermediate told the Herald and Netsafe head Martin Cocker that they go on YouTube mainly to follow personalities who upload amusing videos about gaming, scootering and "challenges".

Only one of the six said he was watching some of the Rugby World Cup games online, and none mentioned any singers or musicians.

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In this group, aged 11 to 13, gaming seemed to dominate.

"There are students in this school for whom one of their goals is to be a YouTube star," said their teacher, Chris Thorne.

"They sometimes want to be a famous gamer and play online games as a career, and they want to be a YouTube star. I think they know now that there is money to be made."

The Netsafe survey is part of a Global Kids Online study, which has found that watching video clips has become the most popular online activity for children as broadband access has spread in the last few years.

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Earlier versions of the same survey in 25 European countries found the predominant online activity in the 9-17 age group in both 2010 and 2014 was visiting social networking sites such as Facebook.

In South Africa, where broadband access is still less common, watching video clips was still well behind visiting social networking sites, instant messaging and even using the internet for schoolwork in 2016.

But watching video clips is now number one in countries as diverse as Bulgaria, Chile and the Czech Republic, as well as in New Zealand, which has joined the survey for the first time.

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Other online activities by more than half the NZ kids "at least weekly" were "learning something new by searching online" (74 per cent), playing online games (67 per cent), using instant messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp (53 per cent) and visiting a social networking site such as Facebook (52 per cent).

About 90 per cent of both boys and girls watched video clips, but playing online games was far more popular with boys (79 per cent) than girls (54 per cent).

Two of the three girls who talked to the Herald at Birkdale said they went online mainly to keep up with friends and relatives on Instagram,

Meadow Edwards follows famous dancers on Instagram
Meadow Edwards follows famous dancers on Instagram "for inspiration". Photo / Michael Craig

Meadow Edwards, 13, a keen dancer, follows famous dancers on Instagram "just for inspiration".

Cooper Godbold follows family members and friends from primary school who have moved away through Instagram. Photo / Michael Craig
Cooper Godbold follows family members and friends from primary school who have moved away through Instagram. Photo / Michael Craig

Cooper Godbold, 12, follows people she knows and sometimes others that the app suggests to her, and says, "I just look through all the feeds on Instagram."

Lani Burtenshaw follows three Minecraft players and a British Youtuber called Yammy. Photo / Michael Craig
Lani Burtenshaw follows three Minecraft players and a British Youtuber called Yammy. Photo / Michael Craig

But Lani Burtenshaw, 12, is keener on YouTube where she follows three Minecraft players and a British Youtuber called Yammy who posts gaming commentaries, "challenges" such as identifying branded and unbranded foods and video comics on themes such as "Flirting with the teacher?"

Carlos Jenkins follows new
Carlos Jenkins follows new "hero quests" when they are posted by Youtuber Denis. Photo / Michael Craig

All three boys in our group also follow YouTubers mainly for gaming. Patrick Stoner, 12, follows Fortnite player Faze Kay; Carlos Jenkins, 11, follows the "hero quests" posted by "kid-friendly" games player Denis; and Jackson Elliffe, 12, follows scooter rider Raymond Warner and Ninja Tyler, a Battle Royale and Fortnite player who describes himself as "known for his goofy energetic personality".

Patrick Stoner follows Fortnite player Faze Kay on YouTube. Photo / Michael Craig
Patrick Stoner follows Fortnite player Faze Kay on YouTube. Photo / Michael Craig

Jackson also follows rugby players such as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw on Instagram and was the only one who said: "And I watch rugby stuff."

Jackson Elliffe, 12, was the only one of a group at Birkdale Intermediate who is watching rugby online, as well as following a scooter rider and a gamer on YouTube. Photo / Michael Craig
Jackson Elliffe, 12, was the only one of a group at Birkdale Intermediate who is watching rugby online, as well as following a scooter rider and a gamer on YouTube. Photo / Michael Craig

Netsafe's Cocker said most content on Netsafe was not checked by anyone except a machine, so parents should always supervise younger children online and agree on plans with their teenagers to come and talk to them if they stumbled on anything disturbing.

Martin Cocker says parents should always supervise younger children when they use the internet. Photo / Michael Craig
Martin Cocker says parents should always supervise younger children when they use the internet. Photo / Michael Craig

He said YouTube can also be set to "restricted mode" to screen out "mature" content.