LiveWire went on-line this month to explore the role played by the Internet in the daily lives of kids ages eight to 14. We learned that above all, kids view the Web as a vast source of personal services,
ranging from enhanced person-to-person communications to homework resources to on-line shopping.
The most intriguing trend is how nonchalant and comfortable kids have become with the Internet.
What we found:
Most of the kids on our panel use the Internet three to four times a week, spending approximately 30 minutes to an hour on-line each time. The number-one reason for going on-line differed along gender lines. Number one for the girls was the enormous amount of general information that they can gather, followed by virtual communication with their friends and relatives. The boys most often visit the Net to acquire information on specific areas of personal interest. Interestingly, only about half of the kids have a favorite Web site.
The information is the draw
For our kids, Internet use is about getting information. Kids view the Internet as a quick and easy place to get homework help, and often turn to the Internet as an initial source for help on school projects.
The kids on our panel, especially the boys, are also enthusiastic about getting ‘insider’ information on special interests. The boys’ most common interests are Pokémon and game codes (hints for winning their favorite video games). The girls tend to be interested in music and their favorite bands.
New ways to shoot the breeze
Among all the Internet uses endorsed by the kids on our panel, person-to-person communication is one of the most common, especially for the girls. Upon logging on, many of our kids immediately check to see which of the members of his or her ‘buddy list’ are on-line. If an on-line companion is found, an IM (instant message) is immediately sent to cue the virtual buddy that he or she is just a click away. Most of the boys and girls on our panel also have an e-mail account and look forward to checking for new messages on a regular basis.
Many of the top Internet activities have everything to do with using the Web as a new method of communicating with extended family and friends. The regularity and the extent of their correspondence highlights a real, personal kid-communications network. Even at this early stage of Internet usage, regular use of this network seems to be becoming an integral part of weekly, if not daily, routine.
Kids are shopping on-line
Not surprisingly, a majority of the kids reported that they have seen something on-line that they would like to buy. The most common virtually viewed items are Pokémon trading cards and computer games for the boys and clothes and CDs for the girls. The boys tend to catch a glimpse of their favorite items while on topical Web sites, whereas the girls visit shopping-specific sites, such as Delias.com, Gap.com and Amazon.com.
About a third of the girls and a few of the boys are aware of ‘on-line accounts’ available for kids, such as Rocketcash.com. A little more than a third of the panel has purchased something on-line, up from when we checked in last year. The biggest deterrent to making on-line purchases for both the boys and the girls is a lack of parental consent, followed by the desire to ‘touch and feel’ products before they buy.
What kids said:
We asked kids if they thought their parents would let them buy stuff on-line. Overall, about half of the kids said that their parents would let them. Among those who said their parents would not, the most common reasons were on-line security concerns, shipping costs or cheaper prices at bricks-and-mortar stores.
‘My parents wouldn’t usually let me. Either they don’t want me to give out personal information, or they think I don’t need whatever it is I want to buy.’ Daniel, 11, Minnesota
‘My mom does all of the buying on-line. She knows what we like, and just orders it. I don’t need to do it, because she already does it. They would let us, but we just don’t need to.’ Kacie, 13, Indiana
‘My parents don’t like to buy things on-line because of not being sure the sites are secured.’ Chris, 14, Ohio
‘They would let me if they approved of what I was buying and if they could watch me buy it.’ Kevin, 11, Pennsylvania
‘Yes, my parents would let me because my mom buys stuff on-line all the time.’ Nathaniel, 10, Ohio
Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, investigates a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Kid Think talks with kids via LiveWire: Today’s Families Online,
a proprietary panel of more than 1,100 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
212-415-2992 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.