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NPD study shows early adoption happening even earlier

After giving attendees at last month's KidScreen West event in L.A. a sneak-peek at some top-line findings, the NPD Group has officially released the third wave of its ongoing Kids and Consumer Electronics study. And this year's edition highlights some pretty interesting consumer behavior that's having an impact on the tech market.
June 1, 2007

After giving attendees at last month’s KidScreen West event in L.A. a sneak-peek at some top-line findings, the NPD Group has officially released the third wave of its ongoing Kids and Consumer Electronics study. And this year’s edition highlights some pretty interesting consumer behavior that’s having an impact on the tech market.

For starters, the average age at which kids start their love affair with consumer electronics has declined from 8.1 in 2005 to 6.7 today. TVs and computers attract the youngest first-timers at four or five years of age, while satellite radios and portable digital media players (PDMPs) pick up kid users at around age nine. Dropping down significantly on NPD’s first-time usage scale this year were DVD players (up 8% with kids ages four to five over 2006) and digital cameras (up 9%).

PDMPs posted the biggest gain in kid usage, picking up 14% over last year, with 26% of kids polled saying they use these devices now. But interestingly, the CE devices kids use the most – non-portable TVs (73%) and desktop computers (69%) – are on a decline, with TVs down four points and desktops down six over 2005′s measurement. Picking up some of that share are laptops, which gained three points this year. NPD analyst Anita Frazier believes this shift from stationary to portable computers is at least somewhat motivated by a physiological reality: little hands can manipulate laptop keyboards a lot easier. Couple that fact with a downward pricing trend in the laptop market, and it’s no surprise why Frazier expects the swap to continue in the near future.

In terms of the gender divide, boys and girls show similar usage patterns, except in two key areas: Boys are more avid users of console and portable video game systems, while digital cameras, PDMPs, cell phones and CD players tend to skew girl. In general, though, both groups use electronic devices about three days a week, with non-portable TVs (5.8 days), cell phones (4.3 days) and digital video recorders (4.1 days) shouldering the heaviest loads.

It looks like CE purchases may be slowing down a bit, with 25% of the households surveyed reporting that they haven’t bought any new devices in the past 12 months. Those that did step up to the check-out bought cell phones, digital cameras and PDMPs in greater bulk than the other devices included in the survey. Older tech like film cameras and karaoke systems scored record-low purchase levels.

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a major influx of kid-friendly versions of CE products, but the target consumer still prefers the real deal. Video games aside, the adult iterations of consumer electronics staples posted higher penetration levels than kid versions of the same devices. And parents seem to be on the same page as their children, with only 74% saying they’re interested in branded kid versions of tech products this year, compared to 83% in 2006.

The findings of the Kids and Consumer Electronics III study stem from data collected through an online poll of 3,324 parents with kids ages four to 14. In order to qualify, their kids had to own at least one consumer electronic device measured in the survey, and the poll was in the field from March 16 to 22.

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