A strong interest grew into a minor addiction and finally a crazed obsession. So goes the relationship the younger generation now has with their various mobile devices.
A recent study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed U.S. children between the ages of 8 and 18 are now spending an average of 7.5 hours a day immersed in some form of entertainment media on a mobile device.
While no one is ready to definitively state whether or not all this mobile minutia is healthy or unhealthy, it's important to take a closer look at the impact it's going to have on this demographic as they become older retail consumers later in life.
“The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it's even more than a full-time work week,” Drew Altman, president and chief executive of the foundation, said in a statement. “When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it's affecting them—for good and bad.”
Altman adds that because young people often use more than one medium at a time, they are actually managing to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7.5 hours.
“The younger generation is so media savvy today they require a completely new approach on the marketing front,” began Seth Greene, a former multimedia marketer who now studies emerging consumer trends as a New York-based consultant. “Their focus isn't scattered like ours was when we younger. They can zero in on exactly and on only what they want to and kind of close everything else out.”
Greene added that addressing this demographic is vital as, “They are truly the first generation that only knows this world. They have nothing to draw from to make a comparison and the pace at which this technology is moving is very comfortable to them.”
So comfortable in fact that the vast majority of young people today would not be caught dead without the devices on which they play their games, listen to music and, in many cases, connect to the Internet to check out pictures and watch videos. Over the past five years, laptop, cell phone and iPod ownership has exploded. The proportion of 8- to 18-year-olds owning a laptop has climbed from 12 percent to 29 percent; cell phone ownership has jumped from 39 percent to 66 percent, and those with an iPod or other MP3 player has gone from 18 percent to 76 percent, according to the study.
Altman added that they suspect that the tremendous increase in cell phone and MP3 ownership among tweens and teens is probably the most important factor underlying the increase in media use among 8 to 18 year olds.
The report adds that roughly 20 percent of media consumption (2:07) occurs on mobile devices—cell phones, iPods or handheld video game players. Moreover, almost another hour (:56) consists of “old” content—TV or music—delivered through “new” pathways on a computer (such as Hulu or iTunes).
New online capabilities and types of content have also come to play an important role in young people's media activities. Two of the three most popular computer destinations among this age group—social networkin and video sites like YouTube—were not widely available five years ago; today they account for an average of :37 of young people's daily media time (:22 for social networking and :15 for video Web sites).
In conclusion, we suggest imaging retailers keep a close eye on the mobile habits of this demographic as there appears to be a trickle up theory in play here as older consumers are beginning to adopt many of this group's habits. We are seeing the tip of a potentially very big iceberg with regard to the mobile revolution. Stay tuned…just use your iPhone.