Headbanger's Ball: Keep 'em Safe or Seriously Sporty?

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 @ 10:05 AM

I joined my first soccer team when I was five years old – long before Mia Hamm made playing a possible profession for women and Brandi Chastain showed that girls could celebrate sporting achievements as giddily as any guy. But in my small town, sports were serious stuff, and in the fall, soccer was the only game around. Back then, we practiced “swarm” soccer, with everyone surrounding the ball in mass, but soon, we began to see the sport as strategic and skill-based – as the beautiful game that I would play well into my twenties.

I was always more scrappy than skilled in my playing style, but early on, the girls and boys who could juggle the ball, perform moves like the Beckenbauer, or who could bend it (before we knew who Beckham was) had a leg up. For me, being able to head the ball held the ultimate cache. Frankly, I never really mastered it, pulling a “turtle” when the ball came my way at high speeds more often than I would like to admit. And if you watched the women’s World Cup finals last weekend, you know that being able to use your head on the field makes you a much more potent threat to the competition that I could ever claim to be.Abby Wombach

On Sunday, before Abbie Wambach even walked on the field for the finals against Japan, the New York Times  had already named her “the best header in women’s soccer.” That was before she aggressively, but somehow elegantly, placed the ball in the net with her noggin. Short of a bicycle kick, a goal headed in is one of the most spectacular ways to score, and Wombach makes it look simple. But as I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if this image would be around years from now, when this generation of young athletes graduates into the professional and international ranks.

Concussions among athletes are nothing new…From football to soccer to basketball, kids and adults have always suffered the occasional concussion during competition. But now, as with many aspects of youth sports, we know more. According to the CDC, 3.8 million Americans experience concussions every year. And in 2005, the number of children who visited the emergency room for concussions doubled the number of those who visited for the same ailment in 1997. In the past, we might have promoted the notion of “shaking it off” or “sucking it up,” and kids themselves were likely to push to return to the field versus taking a breather. Researchers have been focusing on figuring out the effects of this type of trauma on the developing brain for years, and as of late, it’s been garnering the concerned gaze of moms and dads. And, not surprisingly, there’s now an app for that. For $4 at the iTunes store or the Android marketplace, you can download an app that helps you monitor your child’s symptoms to see if they’re concussed and if you should be concerned. 

And along with more severe injuries like concussions, the soccer community has examined how smart it is to help kids develop a skill that used to help them stand head and shoulders above the rest. While almost 12% of team-sport concussions are caused by girls’ soccer, most of those can be attributed to collisions with other players or with equipment (goalies colliding with posts, for example). And the research, to date, has been relatively inconclusive. Most studies show that heading the ball incorrectly (with the top of your head or with your eyes closed!) is much more likely to cause harm than the kind of deliberate, forehead force that Wombach employs. In truth, the average player heads the ball infrequently during a game, where the trajectory of the ball is a bit less predictable than it is in a controlled practice setting. But still, we may not be too far away from a time when heading the ball leads to heady debate. Are we too cautious with our kids, or rather, should we be taking more care to protect our kids from damaging a body part that can’t be repaired as easily as an ACL or a bum elbow? It might be too soon to tell, but certainly, the question of when to put kids back in the game and the price of putting the ball in the net will be just one more parenting dilemma that today’s moms and dads will have on their brains.

Tags: Sports, Youth, Teens, safety, Abby Wambach

Teen Shopping: Insights from the Shopper Insights Conference

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 @ 12:21 PM

Last week C+R’s Mary McIlrath and Darren Breese took our shopper insights on the road at the Shopper Insights in Action conference to bring the latest on teens and shopping to an audience of marketers, retail experts and researchers. For C+R, this was the perfect opportunity to showcase, and to bring together, two of our areas of expertise: deep youth understanding and insights into the shopping habits of today’s consumers.

This presentation showcased a research method that has received much talk in the industry – using apps to get in-the-moment information and insight from respondents. In partnership with Revelations, our team conducted a Digital Shopping Immersion, in which we were able to accompany 30 teens, armed with smartphones, while they shopped. Without a researcher infringing on their space, we were able to see what they bought, what they considered, and what made this retailer the right choice for the item. In addition, we brought YouthBeat data on teen shopping habits and teen technology usage to the table, allowing us to validate our qualitative findings among a much larger sample.  And finally, we tapped into our YouthBeat qualitative panel, comprised of families from across the country, to gain additional documentary footage of teens’ favorite sites for shopping, their prized purchases and their ideal retail experiences.

In case you missed it, we thought we would share our top five insights on teens and shopping:

  1. Today’s teens spend but don’t splurge. At YouthBeat, we estimate teens’ collective net worth at just over $8 billion – so it’s no surprise that this group spends! But economic concerns have not escaped their radar. In fact, the issue that teens express most concern over right now (and for the past two years) is the economy, followed closely by “joblessness.” It makes sense that this cohort has grown up with more sensitivity towards sales, and more common sense when it comes to how they spend. When we asked their parents how the economy has affected their teens, we see that teens continue to shop, but they’re more cautious with their cash than in previous years:Teen SHopping
  2. Shopping is more social than ever. For teens, buying has always been just a part of the shopping puzzle. From mall crawls to vintage store scavenger hunts, teens have always approached shopping as a social scene. Today’s teens continue to see shopping as social – noting that their friends influence their purchases more than most other sources. But today’s teens have other ways to make shopping social. They can share potential picks via Facebook, and they can text their friends with advice on what to try-on. But one word of caution – social networks play a more limited role in shopping than we might think, even among today’s networked teens. They rarely “like” brands, and while they may look for deals on social networks, they’re unlikely to put products ahead of gossip when prioritizing their online time.
  3. Online shopping helps teens browse, then buy.  Many retailers measure the success of their ecommerce sites buy the amount of items in the shopping cart. This might be a bad move if your customer is a 14 to 18 year old! While our YouthBeat data shows that over half have shopped online in the past month, they’re more likely to be browsing than buying. Between not having the means (i.e., an accessible credit card or gift card) and preferring the experiential aspects of shopping, teens are more likely to use retailer websites to comparison shop, and to pre-select items from among their favorite stores. They also look for customer reviews to help them sort through what really fits, what works, and what’s worth a dip into their savings. If they can find the right product, without spending a lot on shipping, they may be willing to ask mom or dad for their account number. But for the most part, retailers should focus on making websites fun and functional for teen browsing. As a bonus, build in sharing features that let them turn virtual  “window” shopping into a chance to spread the word to their friends.
  4. The ideal shopping experience entertains and informs. Because shopping is often a form of entertainment for teens, make sure your retail environments are up to snuff. Provide well-stocked shelves that allow for a constant refreshing of inventory. Teens love to visit stores to see what’s new – and if you’re not offering them something new, they’re less likely to stop by for a visit. Teens’ ultimate shopping experiences let them touch and feel the merchandise without feeling like they’re being watched. Walmart learned this lesson, letting teens play games in store, making them an likely favorite among teens’ list of top shops. Finally, great shopping environments give teens a chance to participate, so provide low-cost items that allow everyone to walk away with something when they’re shopping en masse.
  5. Fast fashion and instant gratification trumps the need for luxury. From Forever 21 to Target, today’s teens are willing to sacrifice a luxury brand for fashion that they can afford. Cheaper fashion items not only get them in the game, but they make them feel less guilty when they’re ready to update their looks (which even less trend-savvy teens do on a regular basis). In contrast to a few years ago, when teens were carrying expensive purses and donning pricey athletic shoes, today’s teens are willing to go a bit lower if it means making their money stretch further. And this applies to technology as well – teens sometimes get overwhelmed by too many features, so make sure you make the shopping process simple. When teens feel smart, they extend that halo to your brand (i.e., if they feel smart, you look smart).

    So what’s a teen retailer to do?

    1. Give them options as a range of price points – and always help them feel like they got a great price.
    2. Focus on making the shopping experience social, but only use social networks when it makes sense.
    3. Use websites as tools for research, but also as ways to tempt teens into your store, where the sale will really happen.
    4. Put the goods in their hands…Let them touch and feel and always make them comfortable when they’re browsing.
    Give them items that don’t require intense investment, and provide them with opportunities to experiment with their look and their style when they’re in store.

    Tags: research, Youth, Teens, shopping

    Parents and Teens Told "DON’T TXT & DRIVE”

    Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 @ 10:32 AM

    BMW recently launched a provocative campaign targeted to adults, which uses children as the reason to finally change their ways when it comes to texting while driving . While the brand was lauded by public health and transportation safety organizations for its efforts, receiving even more attention by these groups was its much smaller initiative, a “DON’T TXT & DRIVE” message/video being shown at more than 100 teen driving schools conducted across the U.S. this year.Teen Texting

    As much as most experts agree that all drivers could use a friendly (albeit not so subtle) reminder of the risks of texting while driving, few would argue that teens pose the greatest risk to themselves and others while on the road.

    According to the Department of Transportation, teenagers are already at a greater risk and are more likely to suffer severe injury when using a handheld device while driving. Their research shows that one in five drivers admits to texting while driving; however, when the question is posed to 16- to 19-year-olds, the percentage leaps to 70%.

    Is it just that teens don’t know any better? Maybe…We know that the prefrontal cortex, known among scientists as the “area of sober second thought,” is under-developed in teens, causing the average teenager to assess and respond to risk differently than (not as well as) the average adult. But most research on teens and texting while driving has shown that teens are aware of the risks.  In a 2009 study out of the University of Kansas, investigators found that even though people believe that talking on a cellular phone while driving is dangerous, they will tend to initiate a cellular conversation if they believe that the call is important. When it comes to texting while driving, it seems that getting teens to stop isn’t about telling them something they don’t know. So what’s the solution?

    Some studies have suggested that parents’ actions say more than their words when it comes to texting while driving. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that teens whose parents had three or more crashes on their records were 22 percent more likely to crash at least once, compared with teens whose parents had no crashes. Likewise, the research found that children whose parents had three or more violations on their records were 38 percent more likely to have a violation on their own records, compared with teens whose parents had none. Many teens assert that parents warn them about texting when taking the wheel, even while they dial and drive themselves.

    Technological developments are under way that would literally shut a phone down if it's used in a moving vehicle. But these types of controls, if they follow trends from other technology sectors, are likely to be adopted by only a few. And determined drivers might find ways around these blocks that circumvent parents’ good intentions.

    Peer pressure might be the most powerful influence on changing their behavior for the better. S.A.D.D. proved more effective than M.A.D.D. in changing teens’ attitudes towards drinking and driving. But even more important, teens who refuse to drink and drive often site social desirability as one of the key reasons why they resist. Ironically, the “everyone does it” statistics that make teen texting seem like a universal bad habit might do less to deter behavior change than we think. In fact, a new conversation – one started by teens themselves – is likely the only kind of communication that will truly turn the tide in this next public health crisis.

    Tags: texting, parents, Teens

    The State of Youth Summer Reading

    Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:16 AM

    For many youth, summer is synonymous with swimming, summer camp and slacking off. But summer has also traditionally been a time when kids lounge around with a good book.

    Many may ask, does this generation still care about reading?Youth Summer Reading

    While youth may be more likely to fulfill their daily word count on a screen, today’s kids, tweens and teens acknowledge that reading matters. Not all kids have been bitten by the bookworm, but many still revel in getting the latest edition of their favorite series, and some of the most recent pop culture icons of the last decade have come, first, from books that the 6-18 set learned to love. Harry Potter and Twilight’s latest movie installments may have temporarily taken youth’s focus off of these properties’ pages, but there’s no questions that youth have made these tomes their generation’s own.

    So what’s the state of summer reading right now?

    First, we know that storefronts (virtual and actual) have replaced the local library in many communities when it comes to curating the tastes of summer readers. Moms and dads are as likely, if not more, to look to Amazon.com for ideas on what the young readers (enthusiastic and reluctant alike) might absorb on the beach or in the late summer light of their bedrooms this season. Book clubs have become commercial, with the reward of reading a set number yielding a free book at Barnes and Noble – not the potential to win a trophy for reading the most books in your town, or more modestly, a sticker and the approving smile of your librarian for meeting a literary quota.

    Second, we know that more and more youth have hefty homework assignments over the summer. Teens take home Spanish primers, history assignments and math packets, along with reading lists that require reports and other forms of comprehension proof. Younger and younger, youth find that their summer selections are not their own, and teachers’ picks might not provide youth with the energizing effects they desire.


    Finally, we know that more and more youth are taking hold of Kindles over crinkled pages, and Nooks over traditional novels. But it’s unlikely that paper will fade away for a while. The numbers are worth considering, but they’re still small. And with more youth titles being made available as downloads, we expect that more adults will buy these digital books to promote a love of reading in their homes.

    It might be easy to assume that reading today is more commercial, obligatory and digitally disconnected from the past. And it might lead us to ask, is that such a bad thing? We can wax on poetic about the way summer reading used to look, but reading today looks like many other aspects of youth’s lives…It’s on demand. It’s an act of leisure that has been loaded with educational expectations (remember when TV was just entertainment?). And it’s in formats that are native to this cohort of kids, tweens and teens. We can continue to look for signs from the past that our kids and the kids in our lives are learning to love books, but to truly give them the credit they deserve, we may need to look (and listen) a bit differently than in the past.

    Tags: research, book, Youth, school