Children in India aged 7-14 years have their own clear TV viewing choices, mobile phones, defined online activities, and 63% prefer to spend their pocket money rather than save it. Their influence on what their parents buy and pester power for more sophisticated products for themselves, have gained power.
While parents claim to monitor what their children consume, children strongly influence their parent’s TV viewing and entertainment choices, besides product purchases, finds a Cartoon Network research study, New Generations India 2012, of kids across SECs A, B and C.With almost 35% of India’s population below the age of 14, children as consumers and influencers are gaining importance. From as early as age two, through their ‘Smartoon’ – as Disney calls them – years of four-to-seven years, and then through their ‘Screenager’ – as Cartoon Network calls them – years of seven-to-14, kids are getting a lot of attention from media and product marketers. "We call kids in the seven-14 years age group Screenagers because their media consumption is on screens – TV, mobile and the internet," said Krishna Desai, director – content, Turner International India, which broadcasts Cartoon Network.
“All parents today want their children to be smart, in a society that is moving from denial to desire. They are willing to expose their children to much more development beyond the home. For the mother, the definition of nurture has expanded – it’s no longer just about physical and emotional development,” said Sumita Hattangadi, director of consumer research agency, The Thirdeye, which, through its research on children for Disney-UTV and other companies, found that children are getting smarter faster today as compared to five years ago.
She added that parents don’t want their child to be left behind, so are more willing to give in to their child’s desires. “Kids are getting ‘up-aged’ faster thanks to more media and environment exposures. Making choices, therefore, is happening earlier – at four-five years of age today, versus the six-seven years five years ago. So children are getting good at negotiating earlier today for what they want..”
All this is impacting consumerism at an early age. Cartoon Network’s research shows that 10 years ago, less than 1% of kids had their own mobile phones. Today, it’s 9% ownership, though 73% kids use mobile phones. Despite having more entertainment choices, all kids watch TV daily. At two-five years, what they watch is defined by the parents/caregiver. Seven years onwards, they choose what they want to watch.
Downloading games to play is the leading online activity for kids from age seven onwards, the Cartoon Network study shows. “No other age demography does that. Kids are early adopters of technology,” said Desai.
Vijay Subramaniam, executive director, Disney Kids Network, Disney-UTV, explained the transition from the two-seven years age band to the seven-14 years age band: “For two-seven-year-olds, it’s about discovering their identity and developing life skills. They are dependent on others and their environments. Storytelling is important. Seven-14-year-olds have already discovered their identities and are giving shape to them through choices.”
According to Swati Popat Vats, president, Early Childhood Association, children start influencing decisions when they develop language. “They consciously influence decisions when their pre-frontal lobe develops by the age of five. They need good role models before that and television is a strong influence.”
Small wonder then that broadcasters are launching channels for pre-schoolers, seeing an opportunity gap. Disney-UTV has just launched Disney Junior and Viacom 18 has launched Nick Jr. Both channels aim to create entertainment and learning of new skills. Notably, these channels also have strong merchandising plans.
Children’s growing impact as influencers for home purchases, agreed Hattangadi, is the result of a shift in parents’ attitude. “A forerunner for this is technology, which kids adapt to faster than their parents can, which has parents accepting that their kids have the potential to move beyond them. It’s no longer about parents having more experience. The family structure is getting democratised,” she concluded.