What do children ages 0-11 think about? You might be surprised to learn it, but terrorism, parents’ employment and school safety fall under the list of concerns for these little ones, according to Nickelodeon’s “The Story of Me” presentation made to partners and press in NYC Thursday am. “So much is changing in their lives. And the pace of changing is awe inspiring. No other generation is impacted at such a dramatic change… almost on a daily basis,” said evp of consumer insights Sujata Luther. There are approximately 50mln kids under the age of 11 in the U.S., making up 15.4% of the population. A few highlights from the study, conducted from 2012-2016, are as follows.
Gen Z, defined at 0-11-year-olds for the purposes of the study, is a very racially diverse group. “This is the most diverse group of kids in the United States ever,” Luther said. “There’s more of a blending and blurring of color lines, literally and figuratively.” In fact, “since 2000, there has been a 50% increase in mixed race identification.” Identity if much more fluid, she said. Bi-racial children make up almost 17% of the population.
Traditional notions of “family” have been completely redefined. “There’s nothing normal about the composition of families today,” said Luther. 26% of them have a single parent household, 7% have cohabiting non-married parents and, depending on the source, between 4-11% have a gay parent. Another family characteristic is that it’s multigenerational. 10% of kids live with a grandparent and 30% of boomer grandparents are finding the children’s educations, vacations and afterschool lessons. (Fun fact: 10% of grandparents have a tattoo!)
These kids are closer to their parents than previous generations and actually contribute to the family’s decision making: 83% of parents say kids should have a say. “They are exerting significant influence on restaurants, vacations, snacks, beauty products, technology, cars,” Luther said. When looking at role models for them, 78% say mom, 58% say dad, 26% say a grandparent and 19% say a YouTube or Vine star.
On to technology: they are tech natives, with many parents buying their children their own devices. 40% of 3-11-year-olds own their own tablet and 17% have their own smartphone. And the numbers are increasing. These kids also are evolving into content creators themselves. The older demo within Gen Z of 8-15 years-old has adopted a “maker” mentality and is comfortable creating things themselves. This contributes to an interest in entrepreneurship: 69% of children say that they want to start their own business someday. Building new skills are of interest to the group, with 89% of kids spending their free time doing it. Many of the skills are tech—particularly coding, with 48% of children saying they have coded before. Notably, it’s becoming a critical skill for kids to obtain.
The notion of a “friend” has also evolved. This group considers digital friends who they’ve never met as part of their social circle. They have not met on average 60% of their Facebook friends, for instance. Rather than becoming famous in a more traditional way, “followers are granting fame,” Luther explained.
Speaking of fame, these kids’ confidence is off the charts. 90% say they can find answers to any question on their own, and 60% think they don’t need to memorize anything. And get this: 29% of kids have made presentations to their parents on what they want—an expensive toy or perhaps an activity or vacation.
In terms of stressors in these kids’ lives, some are predictable: kids worry about school and getting good grades, first and foremost. But they also worry about their parents’ safety, job security and the family’s financial situation. Regarding money, they are generally more aware—and also careful about finances. Cyber popularity, appearance and bullying are top of mind, as well as one surprising one: school safety, which reflects kids’ awareness of safety issues in the world.
Gen Z embraces acceptance and inclusion more than kids in the past. 93% of kids say they’d like to have a friend from a different group, and 81% would like to have one from another religions affiliation. It follows that social causes are important to them.
All this data has been used by Nickelodeon to become more familiar with its audience—who they are how they live. “Representing all kids and celebrating them has been vital to Nickelodeon,” said CMO and president of consumer products Pam Kaufman. Examples include capitalizing on the generation’s diversity with the show “The Loud House.” It features Lincoln Loud, a boy among a family of 10 sisters whose best friend is adopted and has gay, bi-racial parents. The closeness between parents and kids comes through with co-viewing family events like “Kids Choice Sports” and a new family resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. And “we’re letting our audience be content creators,” Kaufman said, with “Nick Likes.” It’s a way for kids to share their insights to Nick in turn inform content creation across screens.