FEW of them would have been born when the show’s final episode aired, but the majority of young people who took part in a survey have named Friends as their favourite TV programme.

The annual report by Childwise on media consumed by the young was based on a poll of 2000 children up to the age of 16. The researchers say that the show’s “focus on friendships and relationships is relatable to teens”. This is understandable, since the survey also found that most of the young people who took part in the study said that they watch the programme alone on their smartphones.

Friends was first broadcast in 1994 – four years before the launch of Google – yet its current popularity is based on an online, on-demand audience – “Generation Scroll”. As the upbeat theme tune to the sitcom goes: “I’ll be there for you.” With back-to-back episodes available on streaming services, Friends really does represent a reliable and constant presence for young viewers, and being dragged into the Netflix age is a major reason for the show’s resurgence.

There is a weird added irony at play here, given that the New York world of the 1990s inhabited by this group of buddies is largely free of mobile phones, home to a bunch of young folk sitting about talking mince – rather than sitting about glued to their phones Snapchatting mince. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal, escapism to another, less sophisticated time. How quaint, think today’s young viewers.

Or maybe not. Sexist, homophobic and transphobic jokes are alive and well in the mostly white-washed Manhattan of Friends. Thankfully, though, this new generation of viewers are growing up in a vastly more diverse and inclusive atmosphere where it’s OK to call out such dodgy content.

Meanwhile, the Childwise research also details the extent to which young people are immersed in digital technology – spending on average three hours per day online. Moreover, the study found that the young viewers of the 21st century are mostly watching alone.

Maybe this is a clue to why the interaction between Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe is so appealing to the viewers of Generation Scroll. There’s something a touch sad about the thought of an army of lonesome young viewers watching pals form relationships and bonds of friendship as they watch alone, a kind of voyeurism for a generation liberated yet isolated by technology.

To add to this general malaise, the research also found that excessive use of social media was associated with loss of sleep. Add to this concerns surrounding the effects on self-image and mental health and a disturbing picture emerges.

Simon Legatt, research director for Childwise, points out: “Children are more digitally connected than any other generation. Yet as connectivity increases, rather than feeling more linked to their peers, children are increasingly feeling alone and isolated.”

This resurgence in the popularity of Friends among young people may well be just a curious trend as kids latch on to easily accessible material. But it could also be a cry for help from Generation Friendless.