Kids: How Quickly They Adapt
"Kids are simply much more actively interested in new technologies," says Stephanie Azzarone, President of Child's Play Communications, who co-authored the study with Erica Rutt of Insight Research Group. "As they grow and develop so many things are so new to them that they are undaunted by the process of learning the ins and outs of something like a new technology."
According to the data, TVs and VCRs are still the number one tech products kids use today, with the PC, Internet, video game consoles, and DVD players each cornering more than three quarters of the kid market. Instant Messaging, email, and portable game consoles, reach a little more than 50% of teens and tweens, while digital cable, the newest media in the top ten tech list, reaches better than one third of kids today.
Whereas kids embrace the new technologies because so much of what they experience on a day-to-day basis involves a process of learning, adults tend to react differently. According to Rutt, "with adults, there is definitely a barrier, an aversion to the new. They find new technologies daunting because their lives are more settled in the routine; they are more responsive to the familiar, which makes them less motivated to learn."
The study found that not only do kids acclimatize to new technologies with comparative ease, but somewhat surprisingly, they quickly learn to assimilate them into their daily lives as well. "We were impressed by how adept kids are at doing the work necessary to master new domains of knowledge," Azzarone said, "and to appropriate these technologies to do many of the same things online that they do in their social lives. They do not passively use these technologies, rather they actively engage themselves and their lives in the use of new media," she added.
Instant Messaging, which is one of the top ten tech services used by teens and tweens, is a good example of this. Kids go online to chat with their friends rather than talking on the phone. It's easier, and they can reach more people that way.
For advertisers, children and teens are a three-fold market: primary, influential, and future. As a primary market, they spend almost all of the money they make on their wants and needs-they don't save much. As an influential market, they have a huge influence over household purchases. And as a future market, kids have a lot of purchases ahead of them.
According to the recent findings of the Yahoo! Inc. and Carat North America study "Born to be Wired," 'Millenials', as the study refers to teens and young adults aged 13-24, are 47 million strong and account for $149 billion in direct spending annually-15% of which is spent online-and research shows that there influence on the spending of others can be as much as five times their direct spending.
Yet it's young peoples' influence over the purchases of their parents that must not be underestimated. Over the course of the study, Rutt found that, "when a tech purchase is made for the household, kids have a dramatic influence over both the brand that is bought and the features that come with it. Kids are remarkably brand-specific; they know exactly what they want. In many instances, it is the child or teenager's role to choose, and the parents role to decide when to buy."
Bottom line? Advertisers would do well to keep pace with the responsiveness of kids to new media and technologies, noting the ease with which they pick them up and ultimately assimilate them into their daily lives. Also, although it's ultimately the adults who make the decisions, it might not be a bad idea to note that in many cases their kids are somewhere out there pulling the strings.