Among the things that Nicholas Carr notices in his book, What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, is the withering attention span of Homo Sapiens Dot Communicatus.
A new study from Ipsos OTX MediaCT says humans are getting wired a lot earlier. The study says kids are pretty much digital sophisticates by age 12. Sociological implications aside, marketers ought to pay attention to how the Internet is changing how kids use media and how media affect the ways kids and parents interact.
The annual report, called the LMX (Longitudinal Media Experience) Family study, follows some 2,000 kids between the ages of 6 and 12 as well as a parent. It comprises a diary component, wherein kids log past day activities; and a separate component for kids and parents for recording device ownership, usage, and co-entertainment activities. Forty percent of moms in the study say, for instance, that it was their idea to get their child a mobile phone.
Donna Sabino, SVP of kids and family insights at Ipsos OTX MediaCT, points out that kids have only known a digital world where content never stops flowing and isn't dependent on platform.
"One of the biggest findings is how quickly families are adopting new technology and new ways they are using technology and media," she tells Marketing Daily. "For kids, it's all content; to them, content is king." She says they take accessibility for granted. "Between 8 and 9, something magical happens, an age of enlightenment between fourth and fifth grade when their moms give them a cell phone, and then iPods, mobile phones, and handheld games. It opens new markets to them."
She says that kids, even at that age, are making purchase decisions via digital channels. "You do have a lot of kids making decisions. The apps are so tempting and songs are so numerous."
But makers of digital devices, especially phones, don't need to think about kid SKUs, per Bruce Friend, president of Ipsos OTX MediaCT. "The experience we have seen is that kids don't want something made for them, they want a device that their parents or older brothers and sisters are using," he says. "If you look at a lot of what's going on in the system side of things, you see lots of ads targeting kids and parents together in terms of services for handsets.
The message is that marketers need to look at kids as more than "just kids" when they introduce a new product. "You have to pay attention to them, to what platforms they are using, and to how they are using things like social networking, phones and video games."
Sabina says tweens have a strong influence on family purchases. "I don't want to give the impression that parents are giving into every request, but what kids do now is broaden the selection set." By way of example, she says if a family decides to buy a new car, it may be the kids who come back from Web surfing extolling the virtues of a vehicle with features they like.
"They may not buy the product, but will put it on the shopping list," she says. "The most consistent finding in the 25 years I've been studying families is that moms don't have enough time; what's a chore for them is for kids an opportunity. And this generation of parents more than any other asks, 'What do you think?'"