Looking Ahead into 2018

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Jan 10, 2018 @ 03:23 PM

This week American students headed back to school after their holiday break.  2017 was a dynamic year in current events, many of which will impact the lives of these kids, tweens, and teens for decades. We, at YouthBeat®, have identified four issues and trends in 2017 that we see as relevant enough to keep an eye on in 2018:

Women’s Rights Are Children’s Rights. 

From taking kids of both genders to women’s marches, to publicly taking a stand against sexual harassment with the #metoo campaign, to women—particularly African-American women—impacting an Alabama election,—2017 saw women claiming their rights and setting examples for boys and girls of all ages and races on how people should treat each other.

Come on Over.

Bans on people entering the US are sort of counter to what the US represents.  But children can’t control politics.  What they care about is the connection between family members—95% of kids say that mom is the most important person in the world to them, 85% say it’s dad, and 76% say it’s a sibling.* Children need their families.  Threats on DACA stand to impact over a million Dreamers.

Peace in the Eye of the Storm.

For children in Texas, Louisiana, or anyone with a relative in Puerto Rico, last year’s hurricanes were devastating.  In Houston, the community rallied to provide free school lunch for the entire 2017-2018 year.  But for children with a relative in Puerto Rico, the tragedy will likely impact them for a lifetime.


While climate change is threatening the lives of people and animals, some organisms are gaining vitality for youths’ future.  Scientists have found a way to foster growth again in the Great Barrier Reef.  Snow leopards have been removed from the endangered species list.  Honeybees are making a comeback, and new pesticides are being developed that will keep them around.

At YouthBeat®, our POV is that youth—and their parents—can feel reassured that Earth will be habitable for their progeny.  Parents—and citizens—are making strides to make the US a better, more equitable, safer environment for the next generation.

*YouthBeat® Jan-June 2017

Tags: kids tweens teens market research, kids tweens teens, trends, YouthBeat, youth marketing, 2018 trends

2016: The Year in Review of Youth

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 @ 03:41 PM

Many adults on social media have declared themselves glad to be done with 2016.  For youth and their parents, there were certainly moments of angst and uncertainty, but also moments of inspiration and just plain fun.  A few of the highlights we noted across the year:

American Academy of Pediatrics Changes Recommendations for Screen Time

In our YouthBeat® and YouthBeat® Jr. surveys, parents routinely report 
that preschoolers, kids, and tweens have about 2 hours of screen time a day—which we believe is woefully underreported.  But we know why.  For many years, pediatricians have been telling parents that children under the age of 2 shouldn’t have any TV time, and that older kids should have no more than 2 hours—so that’s what parents tell themselves is happening. Over the last five years, the presence of tablets and smartphones in year in review image 1-1.jpghomes and schools has accelerated, as has the beneficial content available to youth—including not just educational material, but also high-quality entertainment in television programming and online content.  The American Academy of Pediatrics last fall defined “screen time” as only the digital exposure that is entertainment-related.  Schoolwork doesn’t count.  For 2-5 year-olds, the new recommendation is an hour a day, and for 6 year-olds and above, there is no time limit recommendation.  Rather, parents are encouraged to have their children take breaks, spend quality face-to-face time, and help their children understand what high-quality entertainment looks like.  We expect in coming years that parents’ estimates of screen time will increase.

Sea World Announces End of Orca Whale Breeding and Shows

Though spurred by pressure from adults over the breeding and treatment of the marine mammals, the gesture is consistent with what Generation Z expects and demands from the adults who are the custodians of nature.  seaworld.jpgAlong those lines, an 11-year old Michigan boy started a non-profit called Polar Army with the aim of raising awareness of the impact of global warming on the polar bear population.  Some teens even became activists for climate change, suing the federal government for knowing about the threat of climate change for decades, but continuing to endanger the lives of future generations.  They say this limits their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Stay tuned for news from the courts to see what happens—and know that this generation expects adults to be responsible in their use and care of the environment and the human and animal creatures that inhabit it.

Flint, MI Water Crisis Extends Across U.S.

Since the tainted water crisis in Flint became national news in 2015, other municipalities began testing their own water supplies—particularly those in schools.  An alarming number were found to have unsafe amounts of
lead.  So much so that in our YouthBeat Global study, U.S. parents wereelite-daily-flint-michigan-water-crisis-twitter.jpg more likely to encourage their children to drink bottled water (66%) than tap water (57%).  Parents only in Mexico, China, and India were more likely than parents in the U.S. to prefer bottled to tap water.  In late 2016, criminal charges were filed against several local government officials in Flint who allegedly knew of the dangerous water content and did not act to protect the children in their constituencies.  Youth were unable to stand up for themselves as these dangerous waters flowed to them—but the effects of the tainted water could be felt for decades.

Pokémon Go

It’s rated E for Everyone and took the country by storm in the summer of 2016. C+R Research even blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.  For kids, just like adults, it represented a fun way to get out and move around without consciously exercising.  And, when played with parents, it was a great way Pokemon-GO-APK-DOWNLOAD-for-Android-Latest-Version-and-PC.jpgto bond and spend time together. But the parents in our Parentspeak community had mixed feelings about the game. As one mom summed it up, “The 10 year-old wanted to play but I didn’t want her wandering off and getting into places she shouldn’t be, so she entertains herself with other games.” Their concerns were largely around children playing by themselves—parents were happy to allow children to play from the car while driving past Pokémon, or with parental supervision.  Our take at YouthBeat® is that the Pokémon Go craze is perfectly fine for kids to play, with a responsible adult playing alongside.

Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee

Colin Kaepernik of the San Francisco 49ers made headlines last fall for kneeling during the national anthem before football games.  His actions, in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, caught a lot of backlash on social media as being Anti-American and anti-veteran.  Moreover, in a Yahoo/YouGov poll, a third of NFL fans said they were watching less football than usual, and 40% of them blamed Colin Kaepernick’s protests.  At the same time, he inspired some high school football players to kneel during the national anthem at their own games.  From Seattle to North Carolina, teens followed suit in support of BLM.Colin-Kaepernick.jpg  We’ve written before about the importance of the movement to multicultural youth, as it was inspired by the deaths of African-American children as young as age 12. Kneeling is their way of saying they’re aware, they care, and they are taking sides.

These are just a few of the events that shaped the lives of youth in 2016.  For creators of content and products for youth, 2017 represents a new opportunity to inspire, to entertain, and to delight the youngest consumers.  We look forward to seeing what our youth + family clients provide to support their well-being, and we are here to help.

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens, trends

Kid Snacking Trends for 2016

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 @ 02:29 PM

One of the questions we at YouthBeat® routinely get asked is, “What trends are impacting kids’ snacking?”  Over the last few years, we’ve seen a few things going on that food producers need to know to be relevant with the snacking habits of Gen Z youth.  Three things we’ve observed that are key for 2016:

1. Parents avoiding “big food”

From avoiding products with GMOs (56% of kids’ parents avoid) to joining the organic (42% of parents seek) and local food movements, younger Millennial parents, in particular, are turning away from some of the bigger brands they grew up with in favor of what we’re calling a “small food” movement towards more versatile brands (think anything from Trader Joe’s, or a brand like Annie’s or Clif Bar Kid).  Though kids have a great deal of influence over what they eat, parents still make the purchase decisions for the pantry, and in most categories there are multiple brand options from which to select.

What’s the benefit to kids of this trend for kids?  Emotionally, this trend benefits parents (who want to make good choices for their kids) more than children.  Kids are still rather hedonistic in what they eat (only 48% say they try to eat healthy).  That said, there are benefits to making choices their parents agree with, and saving their “asks” for things they care about more (like the newest video game system).  And smaller food brands can be more nimble than some “big food” brands, churning out new flavors and forms more frequently, which ups the probability of kids finding something new that they like.

2. Bolder and ethnic flavors entering the mix

With the ubiquity of Internet time, youth now have the ability to go on social media (e.g., Pinterest or YouTube) to encounter not just people of other cultures, but recipes and hacks for creating those flavors themselves.  If they watch MasterChef Junior, they see young people like themselves empowered to think outside the lunchbox and create new flavors of their own.  More spice-forward flavors like jalapeno cheddar (17% of kids like) and wasabi (7% like) are entering the youth lexicon—and even if they don’t love the flavors, they will try them.  Some even catch on virally, such as the hot flavors of Takis (for an entertaining view search YouTube for a Takis vs. hot Cheetos challenge).

What’s the benefit to kids of this trend for kids?  By the age of about 8 or 9, most kids develop a bit of edge to their senses of humor and adventure.  Eating, or watching someone else eat something that could be good or could be hideous is thrilling.  If they made it in the kitchen themselves, they feel a powerful sense of control over their environment—and, of course, are more likely to “like” it.  And if they can tolerate, or even like, something spicy, they have earned a badge of honor among their peers

3. Flavor mash-ups coming on scene

From Taco Bell’s Cap’n Crunch flavored dessert “Delights” to cookie flavored Oreo drinks at Dunkin’ Donuts, kids embrace combinations of their favorite flavors into new meta-flavors.  Despite not having a kids’ menu, Taco Bell routinely appears in our Top 5 list of kids’ favorite restaurants (unaided).  Their Starburst-flavored slushies might have something to do with that too.

What’s the benefit to kids of this trend for kids?  This one is simple and twofold, the pleasure of the senses being most important.  If one flavor they love is great, two must be better, right?  Plus, if they’re ordering at an “adult” restaurant or coffee shop, they get to feel like they have grown-up palates.


Source: YouthBeat® 2015 Wave 1, Kids

Tags: food, kids, flavors, kids tweens teens, trends, snacking, Gen Z

Kids, Tweens, and Teens at the Holidays 2015: Toy and Gift Wish List Results

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Dec 07, 2015 @ 10:32 AM

Coolest wish list toys!  Holiday wish list alert!  Tech toys kids want! Headlines are hollering this year, whipping parents and gift-givers into a frenzy with the goal of pleasing children during the holiday gift-giving season.  The National Retail Federation predicts that overall holiday spending will top $630 billion this year, up nearly 4% over last year.  This makes sense in households with children, given:

  • Lower gas prices according to AA, thus higher household disposable income

  • The multitude of digital and high-tech-meets tactile toys (think Skylanders, Disney Infinity, or Star Wars/Sphero BB-8 robot) available this year, at higher price points than traditional toys

The holiday gift guides for childern have two consistent themes: 1. Go with anything Star Wars, and/or 2) buy something high-tech (virtual reality, cameras, or tablets).  The browsing and list-making process itself has become tech-saturated.  The Toys ‘R Us catalog includes codes that unlock virtual games and 3D augmented reality views of the products. Kids can create wish lists using Amazon or Target’s Wish List app

All of this sounds very exciting.  Is it, however, what kids are asking for, or what we as adults are projecting onto their desires?  Our 2015 Holiday Wish List survey is in, showing that kids’ desires might be simpler than we think.  Click here to download the Holiday Wish List infographic.

Sure, kids are asking for Star Wars—as long as they’re Lego sets.  Robots and talking dolls?  Not so much.  That’s not to say that they won’t love the more sophisticated toys that they receive this year.  The key to pleasing the recipient is to fit with their favorite play patterns, be it role playing with dolls or action figures, building, or game play. Most of all, they’d really like to pick out their own presents, so consider a gift card.  This commercial for IKEA underscores kids’ desires for simple pleasures at the holidays (spoiler alert: Grab a tissue). 

We also asked kids about their charitable giving over the holiday season.  Most are participating in some way, primarily by donating toys/gifts, food, or clothing.  Just for fun, we asked them whether they’d rather give all of their holiday gifts this year to charity, or forego their electronics and media for a month.  Kids in 1st-4th grades overwhelmingly want to keep the gifts and give up the media, as do the better part of tweens in 5th-8th grades. Teens disagree; the majority would gladly give up the holiday haul in order to hang on to their sources of connectedness, information, and entertainment.

So make those lists and check them twice. But do it knowing that youth pleasures are simple and eternal, even as the toys we build and buy for them grow more complex.

Happy Holidays from YouthBeat!

Tags: youth research, toys, target, wish list, kids tweens teens market research, star wars, holiday, trends, infographic

Kid and Teen Trends: Back-to-School Edition

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Sep 01, 2015 @ 11:40 PM

Welcome Back, Bulldogs, Tigers, and Warriors (Oh My)!

Across the country, some schools are already in session, while others still have a week left to prepare.  Social media is brimming with “1st day of school” photos, and high school seniors’ throwback photos to the first day of Kindergarten.

Meanwhile, here at YouthBeat, we’ve been investigating lifestyle and attitude trends over time.  Click here to download our hot-off-the-presses Back-to-School infographics for 2015-2016.  We’ve looked at seniors, entering their final year of high school, and 1st graders, just beginning their journey through primary education.YouthBeat Back to School

The short story?  The kids are all right!  There have been some downright heavy events in the culture and news over the last few years that hit close to home for youth of all ages (a tumultuous economy, public violence, bullying, and concerns over sports safety, to name a few).  These types of events can lead to angst, isolation, and depression.  But what we’re seeing instead are youth who are clinging more tightly to their families.  They’re into healthy habits.  They are bullish on the future.

For more information on YouthBeat and the data available through our subscriptions, please contact Mary McIlrath at marym@crresearch.com.

Tags: kids, Teens, Back to School, trends

Self-Publishing Teens: Raw Insight and Untapped Talent

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 @ 04:21 PM

Self-publishing isn’t new, but over the past few years, more and more writers have been publishing their work online (E. L. James’ 50 Shades of Gray was originally self-published and Hugh Howey’s Wool saga remains one of Amazon’s top-selling ebooks). 

Book AuthorIt’s no surprise that teens, who have grown up in a crowd-sourced, content-sharing culture, are now getting in on self-publishing.  If a teen is one of the 97% who have access to the Internet, he or she can freely publish and sell novels, poems, and short stories.  Recently, a teenage girl sold her Young Adult novel to Random House and the publisher plans to release more of her books in the future. 

Certainly, not all teens write, or even read for pleasure, so what makes self-publishing so relevant? First, these self-publishing sites and spaces, like Amazon Digital Services, provide a place where truly new ideas can be considered. Many of the hottest YA titles over the past few years were written by teenagers, making it clear that the world of self-publishing is a perfect place to find untapped talent and ideas.  Paying attention to the self-publishing world might provide you with a front row seat to the next batch of powerful youth properties.

While we wouldn’t advocate assuming that the teens who self-publish are “representative” of all teens, the titles that other teens gravitate towards will tell you something about the reads that resonate with this group. Without the intervention of editors and traditional booksellers, these self-published works reveal the kinds of stories and topics that truly interest teens and that might be currently missing from the market.  And teens not only write their own novels, but they design their own covers and market their work. How they package their stories suggests both how they perceive marketing, but also allows us to see an aesthetic that’s generated cultivated by teens themselves.  According to librarian Amy Pelman, the self-publishing trend not only shows a lot of potential in terms of sales, but it also allows teens to produce and read books without adults. 

Exploring the stories of self-publishing provides access to talented teenagers who are creative and innovative, whose ideas are fresh and unique, and who are producing material they can’t seem to find elsewhere.  These books, and the world they inhabit, provide insight into what teens currently like and what they are starting to think about for the future.

Tags: Education, book, Youth, Teens, trends, tweens

Marriage Equality as Children’s Rights

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 @ 02:42 PM

On the surface, two cases before the Supreme Court this week seem to have little to do with children. The challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act might appear to involve the desire of a group of adults to participate in an institution that should be available to all. But, in very different ways, both the proponents and the opponents of gay marriage have suggested that these cases aren’t really about adults; they’re about kids.

This is far from the first time that children have been invoked in the rhetoric surrounding marriage equality. While it’s debatable what purpose marriage serves in contemporary society, both sides would probably agree that it comes with benefits (and the promise of government support with child-rearing if needed) and it symbolizes stability (considered an important factor in children’s development). On one hand, opponents have suggested that marriage should be reserved for those who procreate (and by procreate, they mean “the old fashioned way” – not the way many parents become parents today). On the other, many child advocates believe that denying gay parents the right to marry puts children at risk. Last week, The American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of gay marriage because of the protections it offers children. And while today’s youth might be more accepting of families of different configurations (even my five year old knows that there is “no normal family”), receiving validation that their family isn’t lesser because of their parents’ gender clearly matters to children being raised by same sex couples.

If asked, which they rarely are, we could expect that most children of this cohort would see denying a group of people their rights was simply unfair. They are more informed than any generation before them on the need and desirability of diversity and the importance of inclusiveness. The Republican National Committee has recently acknowledged that the debate over gay marriage might in fact be a generational one (read: young people don’t get what bugs old people about gay marriage).

But children might also be confused about why they’re so critical to the discourse surrounding this issue. Many of them are likely to know children who are raised by loving, stable, responsible same sex couples. It’s likely they also know children whose families don’t look so nuclear – and who are just as loving. And, sadly, they probably know some children whose parents are married but don’t necessarily come from happy homes.  Even young children are likely to recognize that marriage isn’t the “insurance” that adults sometimes suggest it is.

Does this mean that marriage equality doesn’t matter to youth? Absolutely not. Following through on our national promise of equal rights for all assures kids, tweens and teens today that they can expect to have their rights protected no matter who they are or who they might become.

Tags: youth research, Social Issues, trends

Giving Back

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 @ 11:53 AM

Looking for a great youth charity to give to before the year ends? Our YouthBeat team shared some of their top picks for charities that do good by giving to youth and family causes…

CCACC+R Research supports the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, an organization that provides support to abused children. You can also support this group in their mission, “Uniting public, private, and community partners to ensure the safety, health and well-being of abused children.”

Mary McIlrath, our youth and family qualitative expert, recommends Heartland Alliance. This organization advocates for human rights and responds to the human needs of the worlds’ most vulnerable populations. While their work extends beyond youth, we know that youth are disproportionately represented among those living in poverty, and that early childhood poverty can have lifelong effects.

Paul Metz of KidzEyes supports two organizations that help homeless families get back on their feet: DuPage Family Shelter Services and Bridge Communities.

Brenda Hurley of ParentSpeak volunteers her time with Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.  The charity is named for “Bear” (Barrett), who died at 8 yrs old of cancer. Before he died, he and his mother talked about starting a charity dedicated to eliminating pediatric cancer and to providing hope and support to those who are touched by it.  Brenda sets up “Bear Hugs,” which are customized experiences, like a weekend away or going to an event or show, for youth ages 0-19 who are going through cancer.  

Amy Henry, who heads up YouthBeat, appreciates two charities that tap into the transformative power of sports. Harlem RBI may be about bringing baseball to the inner city, but their tagline, “Play.Learn.Grow.,” show that they take mentorship and personal growth seriously.   

Grassroots Soccer “uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize communities to stop the spread of HIV.” 

Finally, YouthBeat’s Rhonda Eviston reminds us that, in the face of events that can make even the strongest adults feel disempowered, there is a way to support the families of Newtown, CT by donating to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund (sponsored by the United Way of Western Connecticut).

Tags: tragedy, Youth, holiday, culture, trends

The Hidden Message Behind Holiday Cards

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 @ 09:52 AM

Holiday Family PhotosTis the season for many a holiday tradition – new and old. And while holiday cards are nothing new, the way we send them now is certainly different than in previous generations. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately 50 million ecards are sent every year. And, despite anxiety that the many ways that this cohort of digital native uses to keep in touch might make a paper holiday card obsolete, more than 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas cards were purchased in 2011. But outside the box, more and more companies offer opportunities to customize cards to make them your own. Sure, one benefit of these cards is making it easier to send (upload your mailing list once and these services will save you a trip to the post office!). But more often than not, the holiday card lets today’s families say something about themselves. (Holiday style segmentation anyone?) And, since children and families are so central to this genre of self-branding and promoting, we thought we’d examine what families are really saying about themselves through their holiday cards…

  • “We’re still here!” Or, “we’re here!” Far from holiday greetings being replaced by a wink or a poke on a social network, a yearly check-in might be more important than ever for today’s mobile families. It’s not just a holiday hello, but an annual GPS that tells a broad circle of family and friends where you are and that you’re still seeking connection.
  • “We’re okay.” You know those letters that provide a topline summary of the year that was? They might be brag sheets for some…But they’re also ways to reassure and reaffirm that life is good. That college student whose living in the basement? He’s figuring out what makes him passionate. That unexpected illness? A life event that brought everything else in perspective. These narratives are not only stories to tell others, but ways to bring comfort to ourselves.
  • “Holidays are about home.” And of course, for families, there about the “Wondrous Innocence” that sociologists like Gary Cross suggest are indelibly associated with children and that special moment we think of when we think of Christmas morning. Whether your holiday style is matching sweaters, a casually chaotic snapshot, or a photo from a favorite moment of the year, they all remind us that between sleepless nights for parents of newbies, school slip-ups or pre-adolescent pouting, there are times when everything seems innocent and perfect.

Even with family-life more complex than ever before, the most conventional of holiday cards continues to feel relevant. Something about those check-ins challenges our notion that nothing is the way it used to be.

Tags: internet, parents, holiday, culture, trends

The Unexpected Power of Paper

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 @ 09:50 AM

There’s no doubt about it: this generation of youth is more attuned to digital spaces than any in history. But despite being digital natives and online ingénues, they continue to value “paper” in some very specific ways…

WishlistWhen I was growing up, I remember the thrill of getting the Sears Wishbook. Like many kids before and after, I would dog-ear the pages to make Christmas list creation efficient and comprehensive! These voluminous works of commercial art insured that no toys was left unconsidered. As I got older, catalogs continued to play an important role during the holidays. Clothing, room décor, and even the earliest of technologies were easier seen and shown than described in words.

But that was then…And surely, this ritualistic run-through of the catalog must have been made obsolete! But, in fact, today’s households with kids, tweens and teens, and certainly with preschoolers, receive more catalogs than ever. And kids continue to peruse them. What do catalogs offer kids, and why do they remain so precious?

  • A picture speaks a thousand words. As much as the Internet can be visual candy for kids, there’s nothing quite as compelling as a fantasy world, spread across two pages. The Pottery Barn Kids website allows for searching and seeing items of your choice, but only in the catalog can a child (or more likely, parent) imagine themselves in the perfectly appointed bedroom or play space.
  • In an information-heavy world, catalogs curate. While online brands help you pick from among known options, catalogs continue to corner the market on the “at-home” browse. And catalogs from mail-order companies offer interesting and unique items that kids, tweens and teens might not find when they visit their favorite sites. For parents, this is even moreso, as educational catalogs for little kids add Montessori toys, “classic” toys and toys for the brainy child (or the child you hope becomes brainy!) via a veritable buffet of appetizing morsels.
  • Touch matters! It may be easier than ever to create collages online, and there’s little need for teens to print out their photos to show them off. But still, there’s something irreplaceable about the properties of paper. And while this might be the touchscreen generation, paper might be perceived as even more portable. They can move it from wall to wishlist. They can review it even during those “no-tech” times, or in their “low-tech” zones. If anything, paper reviews don’t infringe on screen time limitations. And another benefit? Catalogs come in the mail. Nothing says “you matter” like getting a “gift” with your name written all over it.

Far from having all the answers related to catalogs, we think there’s more to explore. How do the volumes of catalogs that arrive at kids’ doors jive with their environmental sensibilities? Which catalogs break through what can be an overwhelming amount of clutter? And for online brands, is a paper presence a worthwhile investment? We’ll keep our eye on this old but au courant shopping ritual and keep you informed!

Tags: advertisment, shopping, culture, trends