Generation Z 2017 Summer Spotlight!

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Aug 03, 2017 @ 01:07 PM

It’s August already, and Back-to-School is just around the corner.  Plenty of families have already started the rush of shopping for school supplies and the all-important First Day of School new outfit.  Youth still do have a few precious weeks of summer left, though.  Check out our infographicfor the YouthBeat Summer Spotlight 2017!

gen z summer spotlight image.png

Click here to download YouthBeat's Generation Z 2017 Summer Spotlight!

 

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, Back to School, kids tweens teens, Gen Z

Toy Fair Recon 2017 – Major Trends in the Toy Industry

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 09:18 AM

The YouthBeat team once again attended Toy Fair in New York, and it was another exciting year!  There’s a lot going on in the toy space, and here are a few of our favorite themes:

  • Danger is fun! Our subscribers have heard us talk about Millennial parents’ greater acceptance of a little bit of risk in their children’s play.  There was no shortage of toys that will feed into this.
    • Our favorite was Fiesty Pets--they look cuddly until their heads are squeezed, then “Rawr!”
    • Marshmallow guns and bows and arrows aren’t exactly new, but they are as prevalent as ever and super fun to play with, even if the child just wants to have a snack.
  • Clean sandbox play. Think of it as an evolution of kinetic sand.
    • Floof (a snow version), Mad Matter (colorful dough to play in), and Sands Alive (snow or sand) all offer the ability to mold and create without getting too sticky or dirty.
  • Bubbles, in any form, never go out of style.
    • Zuru makes large plastic ones that envelop each player, for fun Sumo-style wrestling.
    • Candylicious Bubbles was there with their blow-able and edible bubbles and toys. Yum! 
    • Their parent company, Little Kids, was there with their 25-year-old brand Fubbles and a costumed Fubble giving out free hugs!
  • Mystery and surprise are still thrilling.
    • Half Toys open up to reveal a skeleton inside, which can range from a dinosaur to a human. Perfect for a budding scientist. 
    • Surprizamals are miniature, adorable plushes that are a mystery until opened—and highly collectible.
    • Sourcebooks is offering a range of “How to Catch…” mystical creatures books, including elves, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and new this year, a Leprechaun.
  • Do-gooding is rising to the forefront.  We saw several companies with overt “giving back” components—not necessarily new programs, but more prominently proclaimed than in prior years. 
    • One of our favorites was Bears for Humanity. For every purchase of one of their animals, they donate one to a child in need.
    • United Healthcare Children’s Foundation is another great example. They run a book program in which proceeds from book sales go to grants for families with disabled children (things like a specially equipped ski so the child can ski with his or her family). 
    • Many other companies are using sustainable materials, to “give back” a healthy planet to all children, regardless of whether they use their products.

The exhibition floor contained plenty of drones, robotics, and other electronic toys.  And there is plenty of time for kids to engage with digital entertainment too.  But the toys that really stood out and touched our hearts this year are the ones that offered good old-fashioned fun, excitement, and kindness.

Tags: youth research, toys, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens, toy 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

Brands Capitalize on Youth Influencing Parents

Posted by Jane Ott on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 09:37 AM

The more technology proliferates our lives, the more native kids become to any aspect of technology, often putting them in the position of being the in-house “experts” and helping mom and dad with setting up and programming devices.  Combined with Gen Z kids having an increasing say in non-traditional household matters (such as travel and tablets) as we’ve seen in our YouthBeat parents’ data, this generation has been dubbed as “reverse influencers” – they influence their parents just as much as their parents influence them. 

Marketers have been capitalizing on this trend by engaging kids in their advertising from the ground up – influencing parents by giving their kids a role in the marketing game.  It’s not a new concept, engage kids to ask for something to spur parent purchases, or even use kids to market a product not at all related to them.  And, parents hear multiple requests in a day, even in an hour.  So what is it about these marketing campaigns that look different with this generation? 

  • They break away from products that kids traditionally have had influence on
  • They offer parents a new way to connect with their kids and tug at emotional ties by sharing a kids’ point of view of something that parents may take for granted
  • They give kids an opportunity to push boundaries and shine in a grown up world by validating their feelings, dreams, and imaginations
  • They focus on simple tenets of childhood that every kid, and parent, can relate to
  • They take it beyond traditional media into new formats or tie ins with relevant causes to reinforce the message   

What are some of the brands that are doing this well?   Some of our favorites include:

  • Dove’s Love your Curls. This commercial, as well as their related book of poetry and curly hair people emojis reminds us that parents and kids win when we show kids how to love themselves, just as they are:

Tags: advertisment, parents, Youth, TV, marketing, brands

Is Pokemon Go for Kids?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Aug 08, 2016 @ 09:20 AM

It’s rated “E” for Everyone and has taken the world by storm in the few weeks since its launch. Unquestionably, Pokemon GO represents a breakthrough in augmented reality for adults. But, what is this new craze’s value to kids? Beyond the many existing augmented reality apps available, we see that the value it brings is twofold:

  • It is a fun way to bond with parents when the family plays together, and
  • It encourages walking around and getting exercise.

But, along with the fun and exercise comes some concerns for parents.  Many of them do not want their children playing Pokemon GO without adult supervision for several reasons:

  • The app collects a lot of personal information from the device on which it is installed (it asks for geolocation, photos, media, and other files, access to contacts, and the ability to take pictures and record videos).
  • In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires verifiable parental permission to collect this kind of personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13 — that’s why to register as a trainer within the game requires a birthdate. Many parents want to keep such information about their children private.
  • The app may suggest to children that they go places that they otherwise would not be allowed by themselves (or at all) in order to ‘catch’ Pokemon.
  • The economic model of the game is based on in-app purchases which parents may not want their children to be able to make.

Our online parent community, ParentSpeak, reports mixed feelings about Pokemon GO.  Here is what some parents say:

  • “It is the hot new game for teens to play at camp. She is 12 and it keeps them after camp and running around.”
  • “My child is not playing. She is 10 years old. Her and her dad did just get into geocaching though.”
  • “My 7-year-old son is excited, though he doesn’t know much about Pokemon.”
  • “My 11-year-old plays it only while in the car driving by Pokemons. Nothing by herself on foot.”
  • “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.”

So is Pokemon GO for kids?  From our YouthBeat® data, we know that Generation Z is tighter with their parents than Millennials were.  Our POV is that Pokemon GO is a great app for family interaction—so yes, then, in a family context with parental supervision, Pokemon GO is great for kids.

To read more about Pokemon GO, check out the blog on our parent company’s website, crresearch.com, where we blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.

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

Participation Trophies According to Kids, Tweens, and Parents

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

cartoon kid trophyThis year, we at YouthBeat have been talking about a new kind of parenting style we call “Om” Parenting.  The “Om” is a guttural exhale, a release of stress and negative energy.  As a parenting style, it’s characterized by common sense, reality checks, and raising children with healthy senses of responsibility and dignity.  Some of the ways “Om” parents encourage independence and resilience are through letting their children fail and solve their own problems, and through letting their children go without luxuries or extras in order to appreciate what they do have.

An “Om” parent might act similarly to James Harrison from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who this summer famously declined sports participation trophies for his sons.  His gesture encouraged his children to work hard to earn an emblem of success, rather than receive a shiny object merely for showing up to a game. 

But how do youth feel about their participation trophies?  This was one of the questions our friends at Highlights explored in their 2015 State of the Kid research report.  In the spirit of full disclosure, C+R conducted the fieldwork for the research this year and in 2014.  Though the majority of 6-8 year-olds and 9-10 year-olds say they want the trophy just for playing, some of them acknowledge that when a statue is a sure thing, everyone might not bring their A game.  The bulk of oldest kids 11-12 prefer to only receive a trophy when winning, as a more meaningful token of success.

All told, participation trophies are probably here to stay in the near term, at least for younger athletes.  Proponents say they foster a love of the game and a healthy sense of “doing one’s best,” rather than a thirst to outdo others.  Each family must decide for themselves what works best.

This year’s State of the Kid Report also explores youth attitudes around parental discipline and indulgence.  Highlights’ 2015 report is available for download, along with prior editions of the report.

Tags: kids, parents, Trophies, Youth, tweens

Youth Are Running Circles Around Adults, Literally

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 01:58 PM

PACRecently the Physical Activity Council published its annual report on American adults’ participation in physical activity. The results were rather alarming: In this age of fitness wristbands and personal trainers, more than a quarter of all adults reported no physical activity at all in the prior year.  Let’s pause and let that sink in. Not stretching…not playing slow-pitch softball…not walking for exercise...IN A YEAR!

What does this lack of physically active role models at home mean for our country’s youth?  It’s not a simple issue.

Thinkstock P.E.Child advocates call for daily required physical activity among school-aged children, through a curriculum of Physical Education as well as the opportunity for physical activity throughout the day.  However, given the village needed to raise a child, the P.E. teacher is only one of the special experts she gets to see sometimes—in many schools, P.E. is rotated with other specialty topics including Art, Media, and Music.

To address this, some schools are increasing the amount of P.E. children receive to up to 60 times a year, and encouraging teachers in all areas of education to get the children up and active, collaborating, during their lessons across all topics. 

How does this translate into exercise among school-aged children? That news is more encouraging.

Our YouthBeat data show that while only 44% of Kids (grades 1-4) participate in sports either in or out of school, 79% get some kind of exercise at least “a few times a week*.”  That level of exercise peaks at 91% among Tweens (grades 5-8) then starts to dip for time-strapped Teens at 76% (grades 9-12).

What can your brand do to encourage healthy and frequent physical activity among youth? Model physical activity in your communication to them. Some suggestions:

  1. Depict their favorite activities—swimming, walking, and bowling are all among the Top 5 physical activities Kids, Tweens, and Teens do for fun*.
  2. Show other types of play as being active—for example, dress-up can be walking down a makeshift runway, not just standing in front of a mirror.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, model adults of all ages being physically active. Our data show high proportions of co-viewing of media among parents and children. By inspiring adults to get up and move, you’ll inspire their children to follow suit. 

*YouthBeat total year 2014.

Tags: Physical Activity, kids, Youth, Teens, tweens, Adults, Physical Education

A Second Generation of Youth Empowerment

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Apr 02, 2015 @ 03:10 PM

Kids' Choice Awards logoYour weekend TV viewing quiz question:

Q: Which award winner or winners on Saturday evening’s broadcast of the Kids’ Choice Awards on Nickelodeon said that they had “grown up” watching the awards?

A) Nick Jonas
B) Emma Stone
C) Angelina Jolie
D) Both A) and B)
E) None of the above

Kudos to you if you watched, and correctly guessed answer D

The winners have spoken, and the culture of kid empowerment has reached a second generation. The Kids Choice Awards were created in the mid-1980s, when Jonas and Stone were in the voter target.  Now they’re both in their early to mid-20s, of an age to have children themselves.

Parents of kids, tweens, and even teens in our latest YouthBeat data tell us that they’re a different breed now.  Ironically, one might argue, they report that they have more in common with their children than did parents of previous generations.  Case in point: SpongeBob SquarePants took home his ninth Kids’ Choice trophy this weekend as Favorite Cartoon.  He’s still got something for everyone, whether the viewer is the parent who knew him back when, or the young child who has just discovered him.

Elsewhere in the audience Saturday night, the star-studded crowd rivaled the Golden Globes in its variety of talent across platforms.  Present was everyone from Disney Channel actress Debby Ryan, to Little League World Series celebrity athlete Mo’ne Davis, to movie star Angelina Jolie, to recording artists Jennifer Lopez and Meghan Trainor. 

Modern Family at Kids' Choice AwardsOne winner stood out as appealing to kids, though targeted above kids’ maturity level.  Modern Family took home the Kids Choice Award on Saturday night for Favorite Family TV Show.  It is not surprising that a program that won the last five Emmy awards for Outstanding Comedy Series would attract a broad audience, especially when 86% of parents report co-viewing television programs with their child.*  Moreover, while Modern Family’s absurd situations are clearly fictional, it reflects authentic emotions and funnybone-ticklers that children of all ages appreciate. 

Now for extra credit, an essay question:

Q:  What can your brand do to recognize the empowered nature of this generation of youth in a way that is inclusive of their parents?

 *Top 2 box; YouthBeat data for total year 2014

Tags: kids, Nickelodeon, Youth, Teens, TV, tweens

Music Concert Time Warp

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 @ 02:52 PM

author, circa 1985I wasn’t necessarily aiming for the Auntie of the Year award.  In December, 2014, when tickets to the Maroon 5 “Maps” tour went on sale, I snagged two great seats, one for me and one for my 17-year-old niece.  Living in rural Iowa, it would be a trip to Chicago and her first concert.  The experience of attending the concert made me reflect on my own first concert in the mid-1980s.  Back then, I was an awkward 13-year-old, and fist pumping to the beat was the epitome of cool.

Thirty years later, some parts of the concert experience remained the same:

  1. The audience consisted mostly of groups of girlfriends—from tweens to adult 40-somethings, all defining themselves for the evening by their affiliation with the band and with each other.
  2. Girls of all ages had saved up their allowance, babysitting money, or spare cash to buy concert t-shirts, which they quickly changed into in the ladies’ room, for photos before and during the show.
  3. The people who appeared to take the greatest joy from the experience were those busting a move like no one was looking—dancing and singing along at their seats, in the aisles, and in the concourse.

One big thing was different—the phones in everyone’s hands and pockets. During the band’s break, the house lights went down and Cellphone LightsAdam Levine asked the audience members to shine their lights in unison. As the United Center lit up like the Fourth of July and a collective gasp was heard, we were suddenly all roadies, all a part of each other’s experience, all sitting at the Cool Kids Table.

So since it happened, thanks, Maroon 5, for making me Auntie of the Year.  

Tags: Youth, Teens, music, culture

Curating Creativity Among Youth

Posted by Donna Thompson-Brent on Thu, Mar 05, 2015 @ 11:44 AM

The Art of the Brick ExhibitNathan Sawaya, the artist behind The Art of the Brick exhibit that recently opened at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, takes creative fun seriously. While the exhibit includes innovative displays, and big bold print on the signs, it’s not interactive in the traditional “please touch” mode of museum play. In fact, kids can’t touch the displays, but they can bring their own building experience to bear on the very act of observing. More than most other materials and tools that traditional artists use, kids can relate to the art of making these playful masterpieces. At a moment in culture when The LEGO Movie continues to captivate and STEAM dominates curriculum discourse, this exhibit is situated for success.

But we took away another important insight from Sawaya – one that he champions in a short video at the start of the museum-goers’ journey – creating will make you happy. In the companion book to the exhibit, he writes, “The creation of art should never be opposed. Not just because the world could do with more beautiful things, but because there’s a mountain of evidence that shows that making art will improve your life in surprising ways…” And he continues, “Creative ideas are gifts, like windows that open up for just a short time.” Sawaya suggests LEGOs as therapy, and play as purifying. He elevates an important idea in kid culture to one that makes sense to even the most jaded adult.

Our favorite lessons for brands and organizations, content creators and innovators?

  • Don’t assume creative play ends early. Continue to see both creativity and play as viable platforms for even the oldest youth.
  • Don’t just romance kids with products – entice them with process. If you have the chance to walk through this exhibit, take note of the wheels turning among kid art aficionados. The sheer number of LEGOs used can make a kids’ head spin. And parents praised the careful way Sawaya organized his many, many bricks (any parent of a LEGO fanatic can only dream!).
  • Finally, consider creativity as career, not just a means to one. Sawaya spoke eloquently of losing his love of “lawyer-ly” things, and taking the bold, brave leap to full-time employment as an artist. So often, we suggest that creativity will lead to success in academic or professional endeavors, rather than recognizing that creating can be a valuable end in itself.

Tags: Art, kids, play, Youth, Teens, tweens, Legos