You Talking To Me? Study Finds Kids Paying Less Attention to TV

Mar 10th, 2008 | By | Category: General, New Media Organizations

Every day, at least one news item makes us pause, and say, “Well, duh” (as in, “yeah, tell me something I didn’t already know.”).

Our “duh!” moment of today comes courtesy of a study on social networking by new media market research firm Grunwald Associates. Their scholarly finding: kids aged 9 – 17 are paying less attention to television than they used to. They are doing other (online or mobile media) activities while watching the ‘tube.

The study’s authors suggest that companies who want to sell things to that lucrative youth market must implement much more creative, multimedia marketing campaigns for their messages to get through to kids. (“Duh!” again).

I don’t purport to be an expert in marketing to teens, but I am the parent of several people in the study’s age range. I would go so far as to say that (at our house, anyway) television is a medium that gets no attention. They don’t have time to waste on weeknights (or weekends) on boring TV fare. Our kids are seeking out entertainment, news and information, and connecting with peers, through the Internet and via a variety of portable and new media.

Back to the expert study: While youngsters routinely go online while they watch television, only 11 percent of kids say that TV holds their primary attention while multitasking. Nearly half of the young people surveyed said that they focus more on Internet media when their attention is divided between TV and online distractions.

“Active multitasking and social networking present a tremendous opportunity to inform, engage and empower kids more deeply than ever before,” said Peter Grunwald, founder and president of Grunwald Associates. “At the same time, it’s important for commercial efforts to be credible and respect kids’ intelligence — and the content they produce. Kids are using social networking tools to create personal content and share their opinions with great speed, passion and influence.”

Grunwald Associates’ Kids’ Social Networking Study is comprised of three parallel surveys conducted in the United States: an online survey of 1,277 nine- to 17-year- olds, an online survey of 1,039 parents, and telephone interviews with 250 “school district leaders” who make decisions on Internet policy.

The study found that sixty-four percent of kids go online while watching television, and nearly half of U.S. teens (49 percent) report that they do so frequently — anywhere from three times a week to several times a day. Companies must respond with more creative, multimedia marketing campaigns, the study’s authors suggest, for their marketing messages to penetrate.

The study reveals that 73 percent of TV-online multitasking kids are engaged in “active multitasking,” consuming content in one medium, which is influencing concurrent behavior in another. This trend represents a 33 percent increase in active multitasking since 2002. While kids are using more media, their attention primarily and overwhelmingly is focused on their online activities.

Kids and Social Media

The study also examines how kids are using online and portable “social networking tools.”

The study illustrates that kids are more active consumers of media. Twenty-seven percent of all nine- to 17-year-old kids maintain blogs, webpages or other online profiles of their own, and uploading their own creative and “found” content, at least three times a week.

In addition, 27 percent of the students surveyed are “heavy” users of social networking sites and services, shaping Internet content and influencing the online activities of their peers. Of these heavy users:

— 66 percent recruit their peers to visit their favorite sites,
— 48 percent promote new sites and features online to their peers, and
— 37 percent recommend products to their peers and keep up with the latest brands.

“The findings of this study strongly suggest that companies should use multiple platforms-TV, online, social networking, handhelds and other interactive media to create a synergistic communications effort and a compelling, highly interactive experience for kids,” concludes Grunwald.

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