KidThink: Caught in the Net

To help us keep up-to-date with what's happening with kids, Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, investigates and reports back to us on a wide range of issues in kids' lives. Since today's kids spend so much time on-line,...
September 1, 1998

To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, investigates and reports 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 LiveWire: Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.

Both Kid Think and LiveWire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York-based communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or subjects you would like Kid Think to cover, call Paul Kurnit at 212-337-6442 or e-mail

What we found:

Our panelists spend approximately 3.8 hours a week surfing the Net. When we asked kids what they used to do with the time they are now dedicating to Internet use, the majority said they were glued to the tube:

45% were watching TV;

29% were playing computer games;

8% were reading or drawing;

8% were playing sports;

8% were playing with friends;

2% weren’t sure.

Of the kids we surveyed, 78% said that their Internet time is spent surfing for fun. However, when asked specifically about their Web activities, our panelists predominantly listed ones that contain learning in disguise. Jeremy, age 8, says, ‘It’s cool to just look up different stuff, to be able to chat with someone from another country.’

Jordan, age 11, says, ‘I like that you can learn things off the Internet, have fun, and I think it’s cool that you can buy books.’

For a relatively new kid on the children’s entertainment block, the Internet’s popularity is impressive. However, our research found that kids primarily turn to more traditional forms of play in their daily search for fun. Only 6.4% of our panelists named Net surfing as their favorite activity, citing playing sports (51%) and playing with friends (29%) as their first picks.

Kids do believe, however, that the Web holds treasures they can’t find anywhere else. Samantha, age 10, likes to ‘get e-mail and download lots of free stuff!’ Tori, age 8, ‘can play computer games with other people and learn stuff about movies before they come out.’

For the most part, it’s all about instant gratification; kids enjoy getting immediate answers to the questions they ask. Thomas, age 11, says the best thing about the Internet is that you can ‘look up information so fast without leaving your house!’ Laura, age 9, says, ‘You can send e-mail and it gets there right away. You don’t have to wait FOREVER to hear back from your friends. . .I also like that I can go right to places that talk about my favorite shows.’ Christina, age 8, likes to ‘receive a letter in one minute, and then make a few new friends from a different part of the world.’

What kids said:

For our panelists, the Net is like a multifaceted and colorful new toy. It holds the promise of finding something new and exciting every time they explore.

‘We’re real lucky to have the Internet. . .the world is at our fingertips.’ Samantha, Ohio, age 10

‘The Internet is fun, and you can learn from it without having books or CDs. I think it’s cool.’ Emily, Missouri, age 11

‘I love computers and the Net a lot. . .the reason I love it so much is that it changes all the time. It’s never a rerun, like on TV. There’s always something new to find out, or some new contest to enter.’ Laura, Minnesota, age 9

‘It’s such an endless source of information. . .you also don’t have to go to the library.’ Michael, New Jersey, age 10

‘All the fun and information that you need is right at home, just a few clicks away.’ Ashley, Illinois, age 10

Next month:

Follow Kid Think Inc.’s

continuing adventures in trendspotting as we find out

what’s hot for the back-to-school season.

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