Tweens are media hogs

Julie Look is director of research for Toronto-based YTV Canada....

Julie Look is director of research for Toronto-based YTV Canada.

With their fingers on every button in sight – from the remote control to the computer mouse – Canada’s 2.5 million tweens have access to more information than any previous generation. Although these youngsters aren’t yet old enough to drive a car, they are uninhibited users of all forms of media, from television to the Internet.

Historically, very little research was available on the 9-14 age group, in either Canada or the U.S. This spurred our station to launch the YTV Kid & Tween Report in 1995. A national study, it tracks the lifestyles, attitudes, opinions, motivations and consumption behaviour of Canadian tweens.

The tween audience represents an important demographic. Canadian tweens have $1.8 billion in total discretionary income – and they influence 10 times that amount in family purchases.

So what do we know about tweens and media?

Well, for a start, they have an absolutely voracious appetite for all forms of media, from books and magazines to Web sites.

Tweens love interactivity, and are actively involved with their media. And they expect their entertainment and information to come in many forms: They are watching shows on television, and checking out network Web sites for more information on those shows. (YTV’s Web site is among the most popular sites for kids in Canada, with more than two million page impressions per week.)

The YTV Kid & Tween Report also indicates that many of today’s tweens are multi-tasking: They are watching television, surfing the Net and eating a snack – all at the same time.

This generation is wired. Computers have become pervasive in their everyday lives: Three out of four Canadian tweens have access to the Internet at home, via PC. Those who use the Internet spent an average of 3.8 hours a week online this past year, versus 2.4 hours the year before – a 58% increase. Boys spend more time online than girls (4.5 hours a week, versus 3.2 hours).

Both boys and girls spend the largest amount of their time online simply ‘exploring.’ After that, preferred use of the Internet differs by sex: Boys like to play online games, while girls spend more time e-mailing their friends.

Although tweens regard the computer as a valuable tool for learning, gathering information, doing homework and communicating, they don’t really consider it ‘entertainment.’ When asked to name their favourite form of entertainment, tween girls choose ‘TV,’ while tween boys cite ‘playing sports.’

The current figures available suggest that the advent of the Internet has not eaten into youngsters’ television viewing time. According to Nielsen Media Research, kids 2-11 have increased their per capita hours of viewing per week from 13.1 hours in 1996-97 to 15.6 hours in the fall of 2000. Teens 12-17 have held steady over this time period, increasing just slightly from 15.8 to 16.3 hours.

When it comes to communication with friends, the telephone remains the medium of choice, although instant messaging is fast gaining popularity among tween girls.

Three out of four tweens wish they had more unstructured leisure time to do as they please. It’s not surprising, then, that their leisure activities are motivated primarily by a need for ‘escapism’ and ‘fantasy.’ This explains the enthusiasm for such online activities as games and chat rooms. It also accounts for the popularity of Harry Potter books, teen celebrity magazines and television shows such as Pokémon, Dragonball Z, WWF Raw and Passions.

Listening to music is among the most important leisure-time activities. Tweens access music from a multitude of sources, including the radio, TV, the Internet and CDs. It’s interesting to note that 22% of their cash goes toward buying music, versus 16% for video games, 15% for books and magazines and 13% for movies.

There’s no question that tweens are eagerly participating in all forms of media – especially as their access to the Internet increases. The Simmons Nationwide Kids Study in August 2000 suggested that online youth read more magazines and books, watch more television and go to the movies more frequently than their non-online counterparts.

Today’s tweens get their information and entertainment served up to them in the form of a rich, multi-platform smorgasbord – and they are savouring every bite.

What Tweens Like…

According to the 2000 YTV Kid & Tween Report

TV Programs

Boys

1. The Simpsons

2. Dragonball Z

3. Pokémon

4. Digimon

5. WWF Raw

Girls

1. Friends

2. The Simpsons

3. Passions

4. Pokémon

Overall

1. The Simpsons

2. Pokémon

3. Dragonball Z

4. Friends

5. Digimon

TV Stations

Boys

1. YTV

2. Teletoon

3. Fox

4. TSN

5. MuchMusic

Girls

1. YTV

2. MuchMusic

3. Fox

4. Teletoon

5. Global

Overall

1. YTV

2. MuchMusic

3. Fox

4. Teletoon

5. Global

Magazines

Boys

1. Sports Illustrated

2. Wrestling

3. Other sports

magazines

4. Pokémon

5. Game Pro

Girls

1. Teen

2. YM

3. J-14

4. Twist

5. Seventeen

Overall

1. Teen

2. YM

3. Sports Illustrated

4. J-14

5. Seventeen/Twist

Web Sites

Boys

1. YTV.com

2. Yahoo!

3. Sports sites (wrestling, baseball, hockey)

4. WWF.com

5. Pokémon.com

Girls

1. Yahoo! (hotmail.com)

2. Disney.com

3. Backstreetboys.com

4. YTV.com

5. MuchMusic.com

Overall

1. Yahoo!(hotmail.com)

2. YTV.com

3. Sports sites

4. WWF.com

5. MuchMusic.com

Books

Boys

1. Harry Potter

2. Goosebumps

3. Dragonball Z

4. Pokémon

5. The Lord of the Rings

Girls

1. Harry Potter

2. Babysitters Club

3. Sorceress

4. Goosebumps

5. Dr. Seuss

Overall

1. Harry Potter

2. Goosebumps

3. Pokémon

4. Dragonball Z

5. Sorceress

Form of Entertainment

Boys

1. Sports

2. TV

3. Video games

4. Movies

5. Music

Girls

1. TV

2. Movies

3. Music

4. Sports

5. Video/computer games

Overall

1. TV

2. Movies

3. Sports

4. Music

5. Video games

Also in this report:

- More, more, more: Advertisers bemoan dearth of youth media p.22

- YTV reaches kids ‘beyond the screen’: Advertisers buy in to multi-layered approach p.22

- Globe courts campus crowd with custom site p.25

- What magazine: Sparking initiatives p.27

- MuchMusic spins multi-channel promos p.28