KidThink: What Today’s Kids are Thinking: When the TV is off, kids head to a variety of activities

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...
June 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 or e-mail

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This month, Live Wire went on-line with kids age eight to 12 to find out what they do when they aren’t watching TV.

What we found:

An overwhelming number of the kids (94 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys) say they want to be involved in activities other than watching TV. Why? Because ‘it’s just more fun.’ Most of the kids agree that participating in an activity, either alone or with other kids, is more enjoyable than ‘just sitting around.’

The sedentary and solitary aspects of watching TV prove to be a problem for many of our kids. Sarah, age 9, from New York, says she likes non-TV activities because ‘I can play with other people.’

Yet there are many other kids who relish non-physical pastimes such as reading and computer games. Of the kids polled, 38 percent of boys and 59 percent of girls say they prefer these two activities over watching television. Edson, age 9, from Iowa, says he likes to read because it’s ‘more educational than TV, and I can stop the story any place and go back to it later, not just sit there.’ And Evan, age 9, from Tennessee, says, ‘I read a lot more often than I used to. . . . I can’t find things on TV that I am interested in.’ Among boys, the favored titles include 3-2-1 Contact, a magazine for kids, Goosebumps and Animorphs. Favorites for girls include books from the American Girls line, Little Women and books by Judy Blume.

When it comes to computers and computer gaming systems, there are definite differences between boys and girls. Boys prefer Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis and using on-line services. Girls, on the other hand, are more specific in their preferences, naming titles such as Oregon Trail, Moraff Sphere and Jongg, in addition to going on-line.

Sports-related or outdoor activities also rated high in lieu of watching the tube. Traditional childhood pastimes hopscotch, jump rope and bike riding rate high, as do street hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and golf. Marissa, age 8, from Massachusetts, includes refrigerator tag, manhunt, street hockey, basketball, baseball and bike riding ‘with friends, outside’ in her game repertoire. Aaron, age 11, from Michigan, says he likes to ‘play baseball in the summer or ride bicycles, or go to the park and play on the monkey bars and slides and stuff and play dodgeball and rollerblade, and in the winter . . . ice skate.’

Giving their imaginations a workout as well is important to these kids. Sarah, age 9, from New York, says that when she is not watching TV, ‘I can play with other people or make up my own adventures using my imagination, rather than watching someone else’s stories on TV.’ Caitlin, age 9, of California, agrees by saying, ‘I definitely like to read better than [watching] TV because you use your imagination and sometimes I act out the story with my toys as I read it.’

What kids said:

Since kids are really active these days, we were curious to find out if our audience is involved in any new activities now that they weren’t involved in a year ago. What we discovered was that there is a wide array of interests among kids these days.

‘Violin lessons, Minor League Baseball, Junior Great Books [reading enrichment program] and basketball [in the winter].’ Marissa, Massachusetts, age 8

‘I’m in an African dance group. I’m taking cooking and hip-hop jazz after school.’ Renika, California, age 9

‘I play lax [lacrosse] and basketball. I’m on the yearbook committee and in the new algebra class, band and chorus. I got involved by being fearless, brave and outgoing. You have to have courage to do something for the first time, and believe me, the first time is always scary!’ Brittany, Maryland, age 12

‘I swim and lift weights at the Y.’ Aaron, Michigan, age 11

‘Making a car, making pizza, astronomy. I learned about astronomy and science, like engines and electricity, which led to wanting to make a car at school.’ Edson, Iowa, age 9

‘I am now involved in building and racing radio-controlled cars. I wasn’t doing that last year. I bought a kit and got some tools together in a toolbox. I built and tested the car and painted the body. There are some races held in the area, and I go with friends to watch. I got started by watching my friend Bob race his car.’ Sean, Massachusetts, age 11

Next month: Kid Think will talk to kids about what they collect.

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