Sensing that kids’ online activities run deeper than social networks and gaming, Ringwood, New Jersey-based Stars for Kidz conducted a nationwide study in March to see how the demo’s instinctive computer skills were affecting the family dynamic. Surfin’ On Mom’s Turf surveyed more than 6,000 kids ages eight to 14 and found that 77% of them are making major online purchasing decisions and are involved in helping their parents with adult tasks like online banking.
Though 96% of kids go online for gaming, 82% of them also jump on to download and shop. And close to three-quarters of the sample group do online chores for their mothers.
‘We knew that kids were helping moms out by looking up things like movie information and travel directions,’ says Adele Schwartz, research director at Stars for Kidz. ‘But we didn’t know they were also helping with job searches, helping single parents post dating profiles and helping parents fill out online IRS forms,’ she adds. As well, 32% of kids use the web to comparison shop for big-ticket buys like cars, boats and real estate, and 33% help their folks buy gifts online.
Schwartz says younger boys are out-shopping younger girls slightly, but this imbalance equalizes by age 12. Among the 12- to 14-year-old boys surveyed, 20% were banking and paying bills for their moms online, and 18% were getting insurance claims. The two biggest reasons kids say they’re playing the role of online consultant is that their parents are too busy to do it themselves, and ‘clueless’ when it comes to online navigation.
Schwartz says retailers and marketers of the kinds of products and services kids are dabbling in should be careful to incorporate language and information that speaks directly to kids on their sites, as opposed to assuming that adults are the ones who are filling up virtual carts and keying in the credit card numbers. ‘And I think this study indicates that marketers also have an opportunity to build life-long brand relationships with young consumers in a safe and trusted environment,’ says Schwartz.