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Digital Households Keep Kids Connected

Gaming is top activity for the young internet cohort

January 17, 2013

Today’s kids aren’t the first to come of age with the internet and digital devices. But they are the first to grow up in households where usage is a routine part of family life, according to a new eMarketer report, “Kids Online: Digital Natives in Digital Homes.”

eMarketer estimates that 45% of kids under the age of 12 will be internet users this year, with digital activity more prevalent among older children than younger ones.

Attitudes of US Parent Internet Users* Toward Their Family's Use of Technology, Sep 2012 (% of respondents)

When millennials were children, digital usage was often a dividing line between them and their parents. Now it’s common ground. Today’s parents have the digital knowledge to impart wisdom and set rules. But kids get to put in their two cents about the household’s digital equipment. More than half the parents of 8- to 12-year-olds polled in March 2012 by JWT said their kids influenced the family’s computer purchases.

Looking at households with kids ages 0 to 8, Sesame Workshop in April 2012 found nearly all had computers and a large majority had web-enabled phones.

Device Ownership Among US Households with Children*, 2010 & 2012 (% of respondents)

Mobile is a relatively new device in the digital lives of kids, just as for adults. The NPD Group (as reported in September 2012 by The Wall Street Journal) found that among kids as young as 4 and 5, nearly four in 10 had access to a smartphone, iPod Touch or tablet.

For kids, mobile usage is often synonymous with gaming. In Ipsos MediaCT’s polling of 6- to 12-year-olds, 54% of those with access to an internet-enabled phone (and 34% of those accessing any sort of mobile phone) said they used it to play games.

US Children Who Use Mobile Devices, by Age, 2012 (% of total in each group)

Social networking is also becoming more common among kids, despite being strictly forbidden for those under 13. Once again, gaming is one of kids’ favorite social media activities.

Social Network Activities of US Child Social Network Users, Feb 2012 (% of respondents)

It’s important to keep in mind, though, amidst all the talk of hyper-connected youth, the internet isn’t upending all kid activity.

Nielsen’s Q2 2012 report on media usage showed 2- to 11-year-olds averaged 23 hours 34 minutes per week watching “traditional TV.” By comparison, their time spent using the internet on a computer (1 hour 55 minutes) or watching video on the internet (9 minutes) was negligible.

While digital is surely changing kids’ lives in innumerable ways, they are still kids, and their digital and nondidigtal habits reflect that.

The full report, “Kids Online: Digital Natives in Digital Homes” also answers these key questions:

  • How many kids are internet users?
  • How many kids have access to mobile devices, including smartphones?
  • How are kids using social networks?
  • What sort of digital platforms most engage kids?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.

Check out today’s other articles, “Latest Feature in Mobile Banking: Smartphone Cameras” and “In Latin America, Digital's Share of Total Ad Spend to Remain Small.”


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