Given the multitude of communication devices at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that the nature of how kids are socializing is changing. According to Kids Leisure Time IV, the latest report from New York-based market research company The NPD Group, person-to-person socialization is decreasing with kids as they get older and is being replaced by other forms of socialization such as social networks, cell phone usage and video chatting.
The report finds that kids ages two to four spend 17.5 hours per week interacting through actual face time with friends or siblings, with the average hours per week dropping off as kids get older at 10.8 hours for nine-to-12-year-olds.
The shift stems from new technology, activity and entertainment options impacting kids’ leisure time. While kids are still spending the same number of hours on leisure time (68 leisure hours in a typical week, which has remained constant since 2007), they have more activities in which to engage, requiring them to reprioritize how they spend their time.
Social networking sites, for instance, are built on the foundation of socializing but can also be viewed by kids as an entertainment activity. Similarly, in the world of gaming, online and multi-player games are an example of that blurring lined between entertainment and socializing.
“A growing body of leisure time activities spans both ‘entertainment’ and ‘socializing,’” says Anita Frazier, industry analyst at The NPD Group. “For marketers, this translates into more ways to reach kids from both a product/content standpoint as well as marketing/messaging.”
Still, the study shows that traditional forms of leisure time activities, such as playing with toys, appear to be unaffected. Unlike with movies, kids are still as actively engaged with toys as they were in the past few years and may even be spending slightly more hours per week with toys than they did in 2009.