KidThink: What Today’s Kids are Thinking: CD-ROMs divide kids by gender

To help us keep up-to-date with what's happening with kids, we've asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids' lives. Since today's kids spend so...
May 1, 1997

To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, we’ve asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Since today’s kids spend so much time on-line, Kid Think talked with kids via Live Wire: Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.

Both Kid Think and Live Wire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or have subjects you would like to see Kid Think cover, call Bob Horne at 212-337-6410 (

This month, Live Wire went on-line with kids age 12 to 16 and asked them to report on the appeal of CD-ROMs.

When asked which type of CD-ROMs they use most often, the results differed according to gender of the respondents. Game-based CD-ROM products were the overwhelming choice among the majority of boys, though there were a few who admitted to using educational titles. Girls, on the other hand, were divided equally between those who used CD-ROM games and those who used educational-based products. This raises the question of whether girls actually prefer educational products, or whether the games available are targeted at boys.

Encyclopedia programs were especially popular among girls, with Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia and Encarta leading the pack. Stephanie, age 15, from California, said she likes Encarta because ‘it gives the most variety of information, with colorful pictures and a variety of methods of obtaining information.’ Among girls, it seems that as long as educational-based CD-ROMs are appealing to the eye and are user-friendly, they can become favorites. Other titles mentioned by female respondents were Barbie Fashion Designer, Toy Story and the Math Blaster series.

Adventure, excitement and action were the three words boys used most often to describe their favorite titles. Patrick, age 12, from Maryland, likes ‘Diablo because it’s a fun adventure game.’ Other tantalizing CD-ROMs that seemed to spark the interest of our male respondents were Star Wars Rebel Assault II, MechWarrior, Duke Nukem and Warcraft.

Most of the respondents, both male and female, agreed that CD-ROMs sometimes cause frustration, and cited poor instructions and installation difficulties as primary complaints. Bethany, age 12, from Texas, said she becomes frustrated with CD-ROMs ‘that aren’t easy to work or install on your computer . . . and those that say they have a game on them, but when you get them running, they have only part of the game or a demo.’ One of our male panelists, Zachary, age 13, from California, loudly voiced his dissatisfaction with poor instructions. He hates it when ‘the instructions are so bad you have to read a big book and can’t just push things and try it on the screen.’ Apparently, simplicity and ease of use are key factors for the kids on our panel.

What kids said:

Kids have strong opinions and unique ideas when it comes to what they want. In an effort to find out what kids look for in a CD-ROM, we asked them to tell us what they would come up with if they could design their own CD-ROM product. Not surprisingly, most of the creations our panelists developed reflected the eclectic tastes of today’s youth and a desire to push the current technological borders. The following are some quotes that give us a glimpse into what kids are looking for in a CD-ROM product.

‘It would be a virtual reality game with a headset that allowed you to feel like you were really in the game.’ Steve, Rhode Island, age 13

‘A plane simulator, to help see what it would be like to fly a plane.’ Ryan, California, age 15

‘It would [let you] make your own games and [would] come with a pair of virtual reality glasses. Then you can add your own graphics.’ Mark, Colorado, age 14

‘A fashion-making program that would allow girls to dress up [other] girls on the screen and apply makeup to them and finish with various accessories.’ Sarah, Massachusetts, age 16

‘It would be about stuff we like to do. It would include stores where you can look but not buy, movie centers where you can see previews of movies, and a school so that you can learn if you want to.’ Alexandra, Texas, age 13

‘[It would be] about all the rules of sports-the scoring, the lines on the floor or the field, what the ref signs mean-everything.’ Zachary, California, age 13

Next month: Kid Think will talk to kids about what they do when they aren’t watching TV.

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