It's hard to believe there was a time, not terribly long ago, when the idea of 6-year-olds having media habits -- much less media habits requiring them to multitask -- would have seemed absurd. Now, however, kids are using a range of media platforms from smartphones to console games -- and starting younger. And they are engaging far more than in the past with content and platforms designed for older kids and even adults.
By age 6, kids are playing video games, using social media, watching videos and seeing movies meant for older people. But their parents are exercising the caveat that if they do so, they -- the parents -- have to participate. The third annual study on the media habits of kids from Ipsos OTX MediaCT suggests that such activities now make up more than a quarter of a 6- to-12-year-old's waking life. The study, LMX Family, also suggests that marketers have opportunities to reach families and a broad range of age groups through a wider range of content than those prescribed on official guidelines. That is largely because parents are less likely to take seriously marketer and government admonitions that their products and content are designed for a specific age group.
The study, polling 2,080 6- to-12-year-old kids and a parent and 715 parents of preschoolers during "typical" weeks in January and February, showed a big growth in the number of devices like laptops, handheld gaming devices and smartphones among kids. It also found that by age 5, many kids are already using multiple devices on their own. By that age, according to parents polled, kids are playing cell phone games, console video games, watching online videos, and listening to music on digital devices. The firm says video games have already become a favorite recreation as early as age 3.
"What we are really seeing is kids being exposed to a wider variety of multi-function devices at a younger age," says Donna Sabino, SVP of Ipsos OTX MediaCT. "And we are seeing an overall societal change in which parents are the final arbiter of what is appropriate for their child."
Sabino tells Marketing Daily that the data indicate that parents are singularly unimpressed by the official guidelines for social media, games or movies. Facebook, for example, is officially verboten for kids under 13 years of age, but data from the study suggest that parents are tossing that caveat by the board and letting kids between 6 and 12 years of age visit social network sites. In fact, the study shows that 41% of 11- and 12-year-olds are already on Facebook.
But Sabino adds that while a lot of kids are using the platforms designed for older consumers, parents are watching. "In this wave of the study we included a question for parents: 'If your child goes to a social network, are you their friends?' Seventy-nine percent are saying 'yes.'" She says they are doing likewise with movies. "Seven out of ten are letting kids go to PG 13 movies, if they are accompanying them."
She says the Ipsos OTX MediaCT study revealed the same trend in games, with 51% of boys between 9 and 12 years of age not only playing T-rated (for teens) games, but also M-rated (adult) games, if parents participate.
"Parents are saying 'I understand that this is the rating, but I know what's appropriate; I know what should be in my house,'" she says. "We are seeing that [fathers and pre-teen sons] are playing games like 'Call of Duty' and 'Halo' -- both M rated -- and other huge releases with their children. Parents are saying 'they can play if they are playing with me.'"
Sabino says the data have repercussions for marketers because they show that parents are skeptical about what marketers are saying about who should or should not use their products. "They won't heed warnings about what is appropriate; they are overriding product warnings, and are skeptical about believing the official line in general. There are so many more ways consumers can get information that they feel they are the best judge of what's right and appropriate."
Marketers for consumer brands might consider that in despite the rise in use of a plethora of digital products by kids, the leading co-entertainment platform is still television and passive video, in general. "We are seeing kids and parents going to YouTube together and enjoying videos."