Content creators and advertisers targeting kids face tough times ahead as competition among tech providers for young people’s time soars, according to an expert at this year’s Audio Collaborative event in London.
In addition to the growing availability of smartphones, tablets, video-games consoles and streaming platforms, voice-controlled devices like Amazon’s Echo smart speakers have entered the fray for the attention of digitally savvy kids.
Speaking during a session called Kids Tech – Untapped Potential, Futuresource Consulting’s Carl Hibbert (pictured, below) pointed out that the 21stcentury’s digital-native children go online to listen to music, watch free videos, play games, read books, use social media and messaging, and even access reviews for shopping.
But that trend comes at a cost. “There is fragmentation of kids’ viewing, kids’ play, kids’ listening time and games,” he stated.
He continued: “They are watching four times as many screens as they did 10 years ago. By the time they are 14 to 16 years old, the smartphone penetration among that group is 90%. Phone calls do not even appear in the Top 7 mobile applications, which are mainly used by kids to interact with digital media.”
Hibbert, who is Futuresource Consulting’s Associate Director of Consumer Tech and Media, based his findings on interviews conducted twice yearly in seven countries with an online sample of 1,400 children from 3 to 16 years of age.
Media and entertainment content providers and advertisers, he observed, need to be more constructive about how they engage with Generation Alpha (who are normally described as the kids of Millennials), the young people who automatically swipe first and press second.
In the UK, for example, the percentage of children spending time on games consoles is 47%; this grows to a 73% rate for tablets. Some 74% of British children own or have access to smartphones, while 94% spend some of their screen time on desktop computers.
The TV-entertainment industry has a particularly arduous task ahead as these very young consumers have no problem multitasking while apparently watching TV at the same time.
According to Hibbert, research in the US, the UK, Germany and China showed that 16% of the sampled participants listened to music while watching TV. More than one-quarter watched video on other devices while the TV was on. A significant 55% said they played video games at the same time as viewing TV.
Additionally, traditional media and entertainment service providers have to contend with competition from smart speakers, such as those using virtual-assistant software like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.
On the one hand, Hibbert assured them, children are increasingly using virtual-assistant tech to access music, videos, audio books, games, and make online purchases.
Moreover, there is still time to adapt their business models to bear those developments in mind. “Voice is still very much in its infancy, in about only one-quarter of kids’ lives,” he said. “Kids are still not aware of the full capability of these types of technologies and how they can make your lives easier. Traditional toy play and books are still important.”
On the other hand, times are changing, he stressed. Mobile use is growing as more young people use a second screen to read books, play games and watch mobile videos.
Not only are some traditional pastimes being eroded, as a result, the amount of time spent on digital screens and the variety of digital screens are rising.
Furthermore, recent related scandals, such as the data breaches that hurt a tech behemoth like Facebook with its more than 2 billion active monthly users worldwide, have got parents worried about what is happening to the data being captured about their children.
Based on the research results from the US, the UK, Germany and China, one-third of the parents questioned said they had strong or very strong concerns about their children’s health and safety when using digital devices. However, digital media and entertainment are here to stay, Hibbert emphasized. “There is a huge rise in music consumption and by the time they are 16, more than two-thirds of young people are listening to music via the Internet. In 10 years’ time, today’s children will have grown up in homes where every user interface is a type of tech control.”