Are tweens and teens still flocking to Facebook?

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 @ 12:54 PM

FacebookThis time last year, Facebook was the focus of many of our client inquiries and YouthBeat related questions. This year, we’ve hardly had a request about the nature of social networks. Instead, apps occupy the minds of most marketers and innovators working in the youth space, and Facebook has hit a few bumps in the road. While the last week or so has been good for Facebook’s stock price, we have frequently found ourselves wondering if Facebook still matters to tweens and teens or if its success is fleeting.

  • Facebook is a distant second to texting, in terms of keeping in touch with friends. For this generation, social networks are places to play but much of their communication is mobile.
  • In the first half of 2012, the number of tweens signing on to social networks was significantly lower than in the same period the year before. We often see tweens embrace the most buzzed about practices and habits in higher numbers than even their teen counterparts but, likewise, we also see them “jump ship” faster than their cohorts.
  • And ownership of app enabled devices continues to climb among tweens and teens making mobile more important than ever. Facebook has been criticized for the quality of its app, so it’s no surprise that tweens’ and teens’ who turn to tablets and smartphones may have an adverse relationship to Facebook.
  • STILL Facebook tops the list of sites teens most frequently visit.

But perhaps there’s another way to see how Facebook matters….Psychologists and sociologists often debate the ways in which technology inserts itself into development and socialization processes. Sherry Turkle is one psychologist who offers compelling evidence that Facebook might matter more for the way it’s used than for the time it takes up in tweens’ and teens’ digital diaries.

Turkle, the founder of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, recently shared some of the insights from a study that served as the foundation for her book, Alone Together, with NPR’s Terry Gross: “[Teens] felt that on Facebook their life story followed them through their lives in a way that their older brothers and sisters were allowed to start fresh when they moved from elementary school to junior high, from junior high to high school, and then crucially from high school to college.”

Turkle suggests that Facebook might influence how free adolescents coming of age currently may feel about playing with identity (the traditional “work” of this stage): "Play with multiple identities in adolescence…used to kind of be their fun, and now there's one identity that counts — it's the Facebook identity. And I think many adolescents are also feeling the pressure of that.”

The Facebook effect is important to understand and explore, but finding ways to fill the gap and promoting safe persona play among adolescents might be the next best move for creators of online experiences for tweens and teens.

Tags: youth research, youth media, Facebook

Kids and Costumes: A Few Predictions

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 @ 02:25 PM

Gangnam Style’s Psy? Pregnant Snooki? Clint Eastwood’s Chair? Honey Boo Boo? Smirking Fab Five member?

These are likely to be some of the top costumes at Halloween parties this year – but probably not the parties that preschoolers or little kids will be attending. It’s a safe bet that a few preschool princesses will come to your door (perhaps of the Tangled or Brave variety this season) and that firefighters, superheroes and pirates will parade through your neighborhood. But beyond these timeless tropes, what’s new in the Halloween haute couture this year?Halloween Costume

  • Whether they’re working moms or just practical parents, most Halloween costumes we'll see on the streets will likely come from a store of some sort…At the higher price point, Pottery Barn Kids offers an artisan-looking collection of costumes from Where the Wild Things Are that help preschool parents provide a chance to play favorite-character, while feeling like they’re promoting the literary prowess. This brand also offers quirky costumes that seem to seek handmade simulation over sleek production – see their “paper doll” costume or their cardboard “house.” And while animals are always a Halloween favorite, this year’s batch, at PB Kids and Target, include creatures who haven’t been under-celebrated in the past…Hedgehogs and donkeys might lose out to lions and tigers, but their mere inclusion in the these stores’ selections suggest that parents are looking for something a bit more offbeat in their store-bought costumes. 
  • Speaking of quirky, Chasing Fireflies offers a watermelon fairy costume, alongside a goth “Tragedy Ann.” This brand’s offerings are certainly differentiated versus the competition (Vampire of Versailles costume for your little guy?), but they may have missed the mark. This parent targeted catalog seems to be skipping sentimentality in their offerings, which might be off-putting to parents who strive to steer their little kids and even bigger kids towards good, clean fun.
  • In contrast, superheroes (especially the  Avengers, but also Spiderman) fit the bill for boys this year (as well as last year). Variations on this theme abound, but we have no doubt that many youth will slip into some version of the quintessential cape and mask on Hallow’s Eve. If birthday party themes are any indication of the kinds of properties that preschoolers love (and we think they are) than our YouthBeat Jr. data might hold some clues to Halloween’s top costumes: Disney Classics (Mickey and Minnie), Princesses, and LEGOs.
  • For parents who prefer the commercial-free look, but don’t have the skills or the time to do it themselves, Etsy helps them accomplish their goals. Parents can get the authentic handmade look without putting in the labor – and this marketplace is full of stay-at-home-moms willing to monetize their costume-making skills for those who can’t or who choose not to do it themselves.
  • And what about tweens and teens? Look for Katniss braids on girls, along with a few Olympians. For the boys, athletes are always a mainstay among guys who know that dressing up like your favorite player protects you from making the wrong choice. Will we see any Wanted or One Direction homages? Tough to say – we don’t expect too many boys to take on these personas, but perhaps we’ll see a few female “number one fans” knocking at our doors.

What’s your best bet on the costumes that will connect with youth (and their parents) this year?

Tags: preschool, play, Youth, fashion, culture, youth media, Halloween

The Secrets to eeBoo’s Streak

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Oct 08, 2012 @ 03:21 PM

Ever notice those “award winner” stickers on the products you’ve purchased for your kids, nieces or nephews, friends or friends’ kids? We noticed a trend recently – many of the games we’ve seen sporting these stickers (10 from Oppenheim and one from Parents’ Choice) came from the same name: eeBoo. The toys, growth charts, games and gifts from this New York-based brand seem to speak to both parents and kid, let alone the committees who identify the “best of” for the fun-seeking set. What is it that makes these pretty products play so well with today’s preschoolers and early elementary-schoolers?eeBoo

  1. Fine design. The artistry behind eeBoo images isn’t just for kids. It’s meant for the modern mom and dad who is looking to expose their child to beauty with their bobbles. eeBoo’s characters and images are authentic and original, while tapping into timeless fantasies. They look great, and they look like they were worth the money (which is more than parents would typically pay for games of the same sort).
  2. Vivid look. At the same time that their appearance attracts parents, the look of these games and toys takes in kids. The colors are bright and vibrant, signaling to kids that these educational products are meant for fun.
  3. Classic play. eeBoo does offer some innovative games – like their Fairy Tale game which encourages children to collect story elements and tell there own tale to complete the game. But most are slight variations on classic themes…Bingo in different languages…Matching games featuring original artwork. eeBoo takes time-tested play patterns and puts them in new packaging.
  4. Incomplete play. This might sound like something to be avoided, but eeBoo embraces the idea that great play for kids doesn’t do all the work for them. They need to come to eeBoo products with some ideas of their own. The education might be invisible to the playing child, but the engagement that this approach creates will be apparent to moms and dads.
  5. “Moral” materials. According to the company website, eeBoo products are “made simply of paper, cardboard, (often recycled) and non-toxic inks…Our primary sources have been recognized for their ‘green’manufacturing processes and all have been fully certified to ICTI standards. ICTI certifies that these businesses adhere to the highest health and safety requirements.” Materials that are safe and environmentally friendly? Two things that make mom and dad smile.
  6. Made by mom. While many consumers who pick up these products won’t take the time to research the back-story of this brand, some may. And those who do will find that eeBoo is made by mom, Mia Galison. (I found this out when shopping at a NYC store. The proprietor made sure I knew that these nifty products had a nice brand narrative to match!) When it comes to kids’ products, the maker matters. It might be why toy companies are often the object of exposes when their workers don’t fit the romantic image we might have of toy maker or play provider.

For eeBoo, awards might make them stand out on the shelf, but it’s the look, feel and focus on quality that make moms, dads and kids fall in love.

Tags: Education, youth research, preschool, Gaming, play, free time, youth media