For decades, children have been big business--the source for buying toys, games, clothes and now lots of high-tech goodies. Marketers have tried to treat kids as young adults--unleashing an array of ad campaigns designed to get them to buy or "pester" their parents. Media companies and marketers, for the most part, have opposed regulatory safeguards that would protect young people from such unfettered advertising (kids TV is a great example). It comes as no surprise to anyone that one reason media and marketing companies want unfettered access to influence kids, especially on digital platforms such as mobile, are the financial rewards. Last month, Digitas, part of the global ad giant Publicis, published a report (attached) which reveals that "Today’s little kids and tweens having buying power to the tune of $1.2 trillion per year." The report explains that "we did our research, talked to our kids, and then brought a panel of five preteens (ranging from ages 10-13) onstage." Some highlights include:
"That $1.2 trillion figure isn’t just about how much kids buy themselves—it also includes the degree to which they’re influencing their parents’ purchases. For instance, 60% of all tweens today have substantially influenced their parents’ final decision on which car to buy...
The fact is that we’re treating our kids more like adults than ever before. In school and at home, they’re exposed to more adult topics: discussions on poverty, war, the environment, and more. And because we’re treating them more like adults, what we’re seeing over time is that they’re showing preference for adult things. When asked about their favorite brands, our panel replied H&M, Nike, and anything Avengers-related. They like the same brands that we do....
Everyone on the panel either already had a cell phone or knew when they would be getting one. A couple of them cited cell phones as their main form of communication—but not via phone calls. It’s all through text messages, Instagram, or other digital networks.
• When asked what social network they used the most, one girl specifically said Google+. She said that not a lot of her friends were on Facebook because that’s where all their parents are—so they all use Google+ instead.
• We asked them if it’s easy for them to hide what they do online from their parents, and a couple of them almost immediately replied yes—not reassuring for the parents in the audience. They said they either cleared their browser histories or just hid their phones."
So as we follow policy issues related to children, privacy, and public health, follow the money. And think about the important role childhood plays in development and what we need to do to nurture that experience.