Blogs from CHILDWISE staff about children and young people
Is meme culture over? We asked teens aged 13-17 to find out
6th January 2023
Senior Research Manager
And I Oop, VSCO Girls, Da Vinky, Sus, Deez Nuts – to some, these words mean nothing, a completely foreign language. To others, they’re amusing, maybe even hilarious, a secret language or ‘in joke’ that only those in the know understand. These are indeed a language in themselves, but more specifically, these are a selection of memes that teens have mentioned in our Playground Buzz survey over the last four years.
For those who need a refresher, memes are a piece of media, such as an image, video, or text that are repeatedly copied, remixed, and spread widely and rapidly online. Memes are often humorous in nature, used to communicate a cultural, social or political expression (1), and as they spread, they often mutate and evolve until there are multiple variations on the original. Memes pre-date the internet - the term ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 to describe how culture can replicate itself through imitation, something humans have done since culture itself was born – but the internet meme as we have commonly come to understand it really started to emerge on sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and 4chan in the late 2000s.
“None because not every teenager is obsessed with memes, come on!”
We first introduced the open question ‘what memes have you been talking about recently?’ to the Playground Buzz survey in summer 2019 after noticing that references to memes, meme culture, and internet culture more broadly were becoming more common in children’s responses. Every term for the last four years, we’ve tracked the most shared and talked about memes among teens, but since mid-to-late 2021, teens began making some curious statements, even exasperated comments in response to this question, indicating that memes were now outdated, ‘dead’, even cringe and that the author of the survey must be a ‘boomer’ to even ask about memes! So, it was time to find out more about what’s going on…
Do teens engage with memes?
In the Playground Buzz survey for summer 2022 we asked young people aged 13-17 a series of questions about memes. The first question we asked was simply ‘Do you engage with memes at all?’. Three in five (59%) teens aged 13-17 say they engage with memes, but there is a notable difference when looking at the differences by gender – almost three in four boys (71%) this age say they engage with memes, compared to fewer than half of girls (48%) the same age. One in four (24%) teens say they don’t engage with memes at all, peaking at almost twice as many girls (30%) compared to boys this age (17%). Just under one in five say they don’t know if they engage with memes, peaking at more than one in five girls (22%) compared to more than one in ten boys (12%).
We also looked at whether there were any differences by age, within the teen sub-group, but overall the differences are minor or without conclusive patterns. At a total level, teens aged 15-17 (Year 11-12s) are marginally more likely to answer ‘yes’ that they engaged with memes (63%), but by gender boys aged 14-15 (Year 10s) are most likely to say they engage with memes (75%) in contrast to just 40% of girls aged 14-15 who are least likely. Teens aged 13-15 (Year 9-10s) are most likely to say no, they don’t engage with memes at all (27%), peaking sharply among two in five 14-15 year old girls (39%). 12-13 year olds (Year 8s) are most likely to say they don’t know (22%), highest among girls this age (29%).
What do teens think about memes?
The second question we asked teens was what do you think about memes? Among those who said they don’t engage with memes at all, memes were described as bad, boring, annoying, childish/immature, cringe, tedious, stupid, weird, and yes, dead. Two boys commented that memes are “so 2017,” indicating that they’ve been passé for quite some time, while one girl says that she “just doesn’t really see memes anymore,” indicating that they’re not as pervasive as they once were. Aside from being over for some, memes are also described as not funny, or unfunny, which is unfortunate given that one of their primary functions is to amuse or entertain the viewer.
“No meme has made me laugh. My friends show me memes they like and I have to fake laugh to avoid any awkwardness”
Clearly, there are a lot of negative words that can be used to describe memes, but some teens go further in their criticism of them. One boy explains that they “just take the mick out” of people, while two girls explain that some of them can be “hurtful” or “just plain offensive.” Another teen girl specifically singles out the ‘dark humour’ memes for criticism as they “seem to just be an opportunity for privileged children to be racist or sexist.” Indeed, the internet is awash with memes that objectify women, promote misogynistic viewpoints, and reinforce gender stereotypes, but since these ideologies hide behind the veil of humour – they’re just jokes, it’s just a meme, it’s meant ironically – they’re often not criticised or condemned because they’re not meant to be taken seriously, which in turn allows hatred and bigotry to spread, unchecked (2).
“I love memes. One does not simply not love memes”
Among those who do engage with memes at all, memes are most popularly described as funny – funny asf, funny as hell, hilarious, jokes, “light and harmless comedy,” “my main source for humour,” quite funny, and very funny. There are also qualifiers to this however, with a number of teens highlighting that some are funny and some are “painfully unfunny,” that it depends, and that “they are either very funny or not at all funny with no in-between.”
In fact, teens who engage with memes use a number of qualifiers when describing what they think about memes. For some, context is key – making sure they’re used in the right context or finding the right ones for the occasion is important. The age of the meme is also mentioned as a crucial factor by a minority of teens, though there doesn’t seem to be agreement on whether old or new is best. One girl says some are too old, one boy specifically mentions his preference for Vine memes (Vine was essentially TikTok’s predecessor that shuttered in 2017), another boy keenly notes that “most of the modern Gen Z ones are not as funny,” presumably not as funny as older, or even millennial memes, and there’s a non-binary teen who simply appreciates “21st century humour.” Once again, the word cringy is used with some frequency – “a lot of the time people just try too hard and it’s cringy,” there is acknowledgement that some memes are overused – “They’re all funny until you beat it like a dead horse,” and that some “can be too dark and people can take them too far.” Indeed, proponents of the meme also describe them as “sometimes inappropriate” or a “small bit offensive.”
Indeed, the issue of whether memes can be offensive is brought up even among teens who have favourable opinions of memes. One boy is clear that they’re “funny and cool, providing they are not offensive to anyone in the process,” another notes some “are extremely offensive to a lot of people which I find horrible,” while one girl describes some as “rude,” and another is keen to stress that they’re funny but only as long as no one is hurt by them or upset about it.
Sharing memes can foster community and connection with others. One teen girl likes that they are exclusionary, in the sense that they’re “sort of an inside joke between you and whoever else knows the reference you’re making,” while another notes that if you don’t know them they don’t make any sense. One boy says that he finds memes really useful for connecting with other people, something that he otherwise struggles with – “I like being able to connect over something so miniscule, as it already is hard for me.” In a similar way, one girl describes how memes can help facilitate communication, offering them a format to express themselves in a way that they otherwise couldn’t – “they help people communicate feeling or opinions in a way that doesn't come across through just text,” while another girl describes how memes can be really handy to use in a reply when you otherwise don’t know how to. In contrast though one teen boy describes them as a “somewhat excessive medium of sharing opinions.”
As a tool, memes can also help express or construct identity, so much so that according to one girl “you can tell a lot about a person based on the memes they like”. Indeed, a recent survey by Instagram and WGSN found that 39% of Gen-Z social media users said that having bad taste in memes makes their crush less attractive (3). Memes can also be spun into a hobby as some boys mention making their own memes, one says he runs his own meme page on Instagram, and another even describes himself as “the meme guy” in his friendship group, with memes therefore central to his identity.
Although they’re at once “basic” and “stupid” these teens still engage with memes which they also describe as relatable, cool, amazing, and fun. Memes seem to play a number of different roles for different people, and some boys even praise them for their ability to help “destress by finding the comedic elements,” and as “a good way to relax and relieve stress.”
What does it all mean for memes?
Meme culture still seems to be alive and well (though apparently millennial memes are over) (4), but they are quite divisive among teens. Little over half of teens appreciate them, share, create, and discuss them, with some even finding that they are a critical tool in their own identity construction, while for the remaining teens surveyed, they’re silly, inconsequential, unfunny, even offensive and mean. Nevertheless, there is still value in tracking memes.
Memes often function as a political barometer – over the past few years, memes about Donald Trump, Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have been mentioned by teens and even featured in the top ten. Notable moments in popular culture tend to inspire meme creation and thus the memes themselves can tell us a lot about what is going on in youth pop culture, and more crucially, what is therefore important to young people at a specific time. For instance, series such as Stranger Things, Love Island, and Tiger King have featured in the chart, Fortnite and Minecraft have appeared on several occasions coinciding with a new season release or new update, and footballers, football teams, and football championships have all featured at times. Memes can capture a moment in time – as meme creator Saint Hoax says, “they have a unique ability to capture insight in a way that is in complete alignment with the zeitgeist” (5). As youth culture now moves so fast – even more so in the age of TikTok – taking a snapshot each term by asking teens what memes they’re talking about offers our Playground Buzz subscribers valuable context, heightened understanding of trends, a glimpse into what has happened in recent culture, and a peek into the collective consciousness or feelings of teens at that moment. As one boy aptly explains, memes are “an excellent way to communicate culture”, but on asking teens about memes, do beware, you might get called a boomer just for asking!
“Nobody talks about memes anymore. Now I know this quiz was written by like a 50 year old or something lmaooo”
(1) - Benveniste, A. (2022) ‘The Meaning and History of Memes’ in The New York Times, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/crosswords/what-is-a-meme.html
(2) - See Lewis, H. (2020) ‘How Memes, Lulz, and "Ironic" Bigotry Won the Internet’ in The Atlantic, available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/09/how-memes-lulz-and-ironic-bigotry-won-internet/616427/
(3) - For the 2023 Instagram Trend Report visit: https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/instagram-trends-2023
(4) -  See Staples, L. (2021) ‘2021 was the year the Millennial meme died’ in Dazed, available at: https://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/55120/1/2021-was-the-year-the-millennial-meme-died-devil-wears-prada-actual-villain
(5) - Quoted in https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/crosswords/what-is-a-meme.html
If you would like to find out more email Helena Dare-Edwards - firstname.lastname@example.org
How can using the CHILDWISE Video Panel can help you?
21st December 2021
The CHILDWISE Video Panel offers access to a diverse selection of children and young people from across the country, who are ready to answer questions about your brand, your products, your services, or any research questions you have. The panel is made up of boys and girls aged 7 to 17, with a wide range of different interests, including: social media, reading, gaming, films, music, sports and many more!
Benefits of the CHILDWISE Video Panel
Do you need answers before your next meeting? Do you want to know what kids think about a new trend? The CHILDWISE Video Panel offers quick responses, meaning that you can gain insight into what kids think right now - this is particularly useful as you only have to read our Playground Buzz report to know how quickly trends can change amongst children!
Value for money
Our panellists are already recruited and are ready to share their views! Not only does this mean that videos can be turned around quickly but it also means that you get great value for your money.
Find out what children think, in their own words
Our panellist’s film themselves answering questions (or talking) about a variety of topics, this means that you can gain a deeper understanding into what kids think by hearing from the children themselves. These videos can also help to bring research findings to life. We could start listing all the reasons why we think it’s important for children to have their voices heard - but we like to let our panellists do the talking. Click here to hear why our panellists think it is important to have their voices heard.
Content which can be used in meetings, shared internally, or presented at conferences
We edit all our video responses into a short video, complete with background music. This means that all you have to do is click ‘play’ to hear what kids have to say. The videos are kept short, allowing them to be shown quickly, to keep audiences engaged- whilst still providing a greater understanding into what children think.
Gain tailored insight into the topics that matter most to you and your business. For example, the CHILDWISE Video Panel helped us to understand how children stayed connected to their friends during lockdown, how they felt about returning to school and how they found the experience of being home-schooled. The CHILDWISE Video panel allows you to gain insights which are important to your company, which could give you a competitive edge.
The potential to ask follow up questions
When watching the video, you may find that you want to explore something said in greater depth or ask some follow up questions. Due to our strong relationships with our panellists- you can ask follow up questions or even have in-depth interviews conducted with our panellists to gain an even greater insight into any views or ideas you wish to explore further.
Access to a diverse range of children from across the country.
The panel is made up of boys and girls aged 7 to 17 from across the UK with a wide range of different interests, including: social media, reading, gaming, films, music, sports and many more!
One of the strengths of the CHILDWISE Video Panel is that there are a variety of ways that it can be used. Not only can the video panel be used to answer any questions you have or to gain a greater understanding of topics, but it can also be used as a starting point of research to identify any key themes or ideas you may wish to explore further- e.g. through in-depth interviews, surveys or further panel questions.
Benefits of the CHILDWISE Video Panel:
• Quick feedback and turnaround
• Value for money
• Find out what children think, in their own words
• Content can be used in meetings, shared internally, or presented at conferences
• You can explore a variety of topics
• Follow up questions can be asked
• Access to a diverse range of children from across the country
• Tailored insight
If you would like to find out more about how the CHILDWISE Video Panel can help you, email Jessica Hickin - Jessica.email@example.com
New research into the digital lives of pre-schoolers
10th December 2021
Associate Research Director
The latest figures from the 2021 Pre-school Report reveal that more than eight in ten under-fives now have access to a connected device of some kind (e.g. a tablet, laptop, phone, desktop or smart speaker), and personal ownership continues to break new ground. More than six in ten pre-school children have access to their own connected device, increasing to three quarters among 3-4 year olds.
Technology has become an unstoppable force, it has transformed the way that childhood looks and feels. But not all screens are created equal. Finding a healthy balance seems to be the challenge now.
Access to digital technology is most often via a tablet. Almost two thirds of pre-schoolers use a device of this kind, with access to smart speakers, mobile phones, and laptops also on the increase.
Patterns of usage are changing this year. Pre-schoolers are now more likely to access technology, especially tablets, early in the morning right through to the afternoon – with fewer using them in the evenings and at weekends compared to a year ago – both previously peak times.
Patterns of access have remained relatively stable in recent years. This change could be an indication that the pandemic and its associated lockdowns have altered the way in which families use technology. It’s also entirely possible that habits developed during the lockdowns are proving hard to break.
Time spent using tablets also remains higher than pre-covid levels, with listening to stories and audio books, and watching music videos both representing areas of growth this year. Watching programmes and video clips remain the number one activity for children with access to a tablet, followed by playing games and apps.
Six in ten parents acknowledge that their child discovers new digital content for themselves, up nine percentage points this year. Nearly half of 3-4 year olds are confident opening the apps they want to use on their own, and similar numbers can adjust the volume controls.
For some time now we’ve intimated that pre-school children are becoming increasingly independent when using technology, and now we have the data to confirm this.
On-demand services are where under-fives continue to focus their viewing attention. Subscription based service, Netflix, remains the most popular destination for on-demand content for the third consecutive year—but unlike many of its competitors, its growth has stalled this year. Disney+ continues to grow its pre-school audience, as does Amazon Prime Video. The BBC remains a dominant force among the pre-school audience, and collectively it’s services are accessed by three out of four children under the age of five.
Peppa Pig holds on to her position at the top of the favourite programming chart this year, but storming up behind her are Cocomelon and Blippi, both streaming extensions of their hugely popular YouTube channels.
Games consoles are one of several digital devices that saw an uptick in usage among toddlers throughout the pandemic, with ownership continuing to grow this year. Nearly half of under-fives now have access to a games console at home, with enduring favourite, Super Mario, topping their list of favourite games, and FIFA slipping into second.
With under-fives increasingly living a life mediated by screens, more than eight in ten parents agree that it’s important that their child spends time away from technology. There is also a growing consensus among parents that young children need to experience boredom. The number of parents who feel that learning to overcome boredom is an important requirement of childhood has increased seven percentage points this year.
Six in ten parents feel that under-fives need to experience boredom to some degree, whilst eight in ten think it’s important that children are given time to themselves to play independently.
Pre-school children are growing up in media rich homes, acquiring basic technical skills quickly and easily, often by mirroring the behaviour around them. Once they’ve discovered or been introduced to the digital landscape, there’s no turning back that tide. Throw in a worldwide pandemic, and the challenge of moderating and mentoring children’s engagement with technology is greater than ever before.
If you would like to find out more about the Pre-School Report, email Jenny Ehren - firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction to the CHILDWISE Video Panel
3rd December 2021
The CHILDWISE Video Panel was established in 2020 in an effort to give children a platform to have their voices heard during the pandemic. During this time, the panel has allowed us to gain a greater understanding of how children stayed connected to their friends during lockdown, how they felt about returning to school and how they found the experience of being home-schooled. The CHILDWISE Video panel is a fantastic way to find out what children think currently due to quick turnaround times.
Since 2020, our panel has grown to include access to a diverse selection of children and young people from across the country, who are ready to give their views on your brand, your products, your services, or any research questions you have. The panel is made up of boys and girls aged 7 to 17, with a wide range of different interests, including: social media, reading, gaming, films, music, sports and many more!
We regularly ask our panellists to talk about (or answer questions) on a variety of topics. This has enabled us to explore children and young people’s views on a vast range of topics including PE and Exercise, Gender, and The Environment. Through these videos, we are able to gain an understanding of what environmental issues concern children most, how children feel about PE lessons at school and whether their gender holds them back from doing things. We have also asked our panellists to talk about their favourite video games, YouTube content, favourite TikTokers and more!
The CHILDWISE Video Panel gives you access to tailored insights, giving you direct feedback on issues that are of importance to your company, for example: Would it help to know what kids think about a certain brand before your next meeting? Are you looking for some extra insight to shape your next campaign? Are you developing a new product and wondering what kids might think about it? Then the CHILDWISE Video Panel could be for you.
Our panellist’s film themselves answering questions or talking about their views and opinions on a range of topics, from the comfort of their home. Not only does this save time by allowing children to capture themselves using technology they are familiar with, it also means that you can gain a deeper understanding into what kids think by hearing honest and candid insights from the children themselves. We could start listing all the reasons why we think it’s important for children to have their voices heard- but we like to let our panellists do the talking. Click here to hear why our panellists think it is important to have their voices heard.
How can the video panel help you?
You may be wondering how the CHILDWISE Video panel can help you. Below we’ve listed just some of the ways our panel could help:
The Video Panel and our reports
Our panel videos now feature in our termly Playground Buzz reports, allowing our report buyers to hear what children like about the brands mentioned. For example, videos include our panellists talking about popular brands such as Fortnite, Call of Duty and The Vampire Diaries as well as niche and emerging brands. The videos also show our panellists using demonstrations to explain why they like certain brands- including Pop Its, Fidgets, Hot Wheels, and LEGO!
Clients who purchase any of our published reports (Monitor, Playground Buzz, Preschool) receive exclusive weekly CHILDWISE Video Panel videos as well as access to our unique library of Panel videos, which allows them to gain regular insight into a variety of topics.
If you would like to find out more about how the CHILDWISE Video Panel can help you, email Jessica Hickin - Jessica.email@example.com
Enterprising Kids: How children make money in today’s society
11th February 2020
Traditionally, children who wanted to make some extra money could do so by selling things at school, locally or to friends and family. However, with a range of digital technologies available to them, children today have a variety of potential ways they can make money, including selling items online, gaming (e.g. through participation in eSports and through streaming sites such as Twitch) and making YouTube videos.
Recent CHILDWISE research reveals that over half of children aged 7-16 make money, or think they could make money, from their skills, hobbies or interests, with the number of children saying this increasing with age (51% of 7-12s rising to 54% of 13-16s). Overall, boys are more likely to think they could make money through their skills, hobbies or interests than girls.
Children today mention a variety of skills, hobbies or interests that they make or think they could make money from including football (being the most popular), selling (including selling cakes, ‘old things’ and paintings), drawing, gaming and YouTube. For example, one eight-year-old boy said “I buy and sell for a tiny bit more. I also make things and sell them and I sell things I don’t want anymore”.
But where are children making this money? Who are they making or selling these things for? And what impact does this have on their perspectives on future careers. These questions are explored in greater depth below.
Making money at home
The most popular location for children to make money through their skills hobbies or interests is at home, with almost half of children making money there. In comparison, only a small proportion of children make money through selling things at local events, at school or at local shops (19%, 18% and 10% respectively). The majority of children today have access to a computer at home (94% of 5-16s, 2020 CHILDWISE Monitor survey), allowing them to use a variety of websites and apps to make money. For example, an 11-year-old girl stated she makes money by “selling stuff on apps like depop etc.”. This research reveals that online marketplace eBay is the most popular website children use to make money, followed by YouTube and gaming websites.
Making things / selling things for themselves
Children who make money are most likely to make or do these things for themselves, with seven in ten doing so. For example, a child may make YouTube videos for themselves because they enjoy making them, rather than making videos explicitly for people who watch them. Only a minority of children specifically make or sell things to people online or who live further away. Children who make money through their skills, hobbies or interests are most likely to save the money they make, with the majority doing so. Only a small proportion of children spend the money they make on materials to make more. However, there are a number of potential reasons for this, including children using their existing pocket money to buy goods, children selling their old unwanted items and new ways of making money such as YouTube and gaming which require fewer materials. For example, a 7-year-old girl said “I sell my books and things I don’t need” and a 14-year-old boy claimed he makes money by “playing Video Games, I have a YouTube channel with over 1000 subscribers therefore I can make crumbs of money from ad revenue”.
As well as making money through their skills, hobbies or interests, doing so can help to provide children with valuable experience, which can be used to inform and contribute to their future career plans. For example, three in four children who make money through their skills, hobbies or interests think they could turn these into a proper job when they are older, compared to fewer than half of those who do not / do not think they could make money. Children who make money this way are also more likely to know what sort of job they want than those who do not make money.
Leading on from this, children who make money through their skills, hobbies or interests are also more likely to want to be their own boss than those who do not make money. Children who make money this way, may also be more aware of the realities of working / running a business, as these children are more likely to agree that being their own boss would mean a lot of responsibility and stress.
Overall, those making money from their skills, hobbies or interests are most likely to agree that finding a job they enjoy is more important than how much they could earn, with around seven in ten saying this. Despite this difference, it should be noted that the majority of children (regardless of whether or not they make money) agree that finding a job that they enjoy is more important to them than how much they could earn.
Findings from this research also include:
Mobile phone ownership and usage is up among kids – but it can be tough parenting this more private and personal technology
5th February 2020
Most children are now phone owners by the age of seven, with a big increase this year in the number of 5-10-year-olds who own their own mobile, according to the new CHILDWISE Monitor Report 2020.
The number of 5-16-year-olds with their own mobile phone has increased this year, following several years of little change. More than two out of three children now have their own handset. This year, young children have increasing access to mobile phones and they are using them for longer periods of time. With the majority of children now phone owners by age seven, average daily usage among 7-10 year olds has gone up by almost an hour a day.
Mobile ownership has faced strong competition from tablet computers over the last few years. However, the tide appears to be turning, with phone ownership back to levels last seen in 2012 and tablet usage taking a downturn.
Mobile phones have won over tablet computers and now dominate children’s lives. This year 47% of 5 to 10-year olds now have a mobile, up from 38% last year. However, it can be tough to parent your young child’s use of technology when the mobile phone is such a private and personal technology. The moment a child owns a mobile phone, it can be a challenge to monitor what your child is accessing online because it’s such a private technology that most keep, literally, close to their chest.
More kids of all ages are using their phones to access the internet, increasingly from their own room or when they are out and about. More than half admit to ‘always sleeping with their mobile next to the bed’ – and say they wouldn’t know what to do if they lost their device.
The amount of time that children spend online continues to increase overall, with boys remaining heavier internet users than girls. Children now say they spend 3.4 hours a day online, rising slightly from 3.3 last year.
Children’s increased use of their mobile to go online also has implications for what they choose to watch. It’s a new era for content and TV and a completely new way of doing things. Children are online all the time, checking in on their mobiles while out and about. Content is likely to get shorter and shorter to fit with this way of viewing.
Findings of the report also include…
The 2020 CHILDWISE Monitor is a comprehensive annual report looking at 5 to 16-year-olds media consumption, purchasing and social habits as well as key behaviour. More than 2000 children in schools across the United Kingdom completed in-depth online surveys for the report, which is now in its 26th year.
10 Reasons why Friends is still popular… 25 years later
7th February 2019
Later this year, quintessential 90s sitcom Friends will turn 25 years old. Premiering in 1994 and running for 10 seasons, Friends enjoyed huge success during its run on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. When it came to a tear-jerking end in 2004, its last episode became one of the most-watched finales in US TV history, and today it remains the most-watched episode of the 2000s.
While Friends was never officially ‘off-air’ – reruns were a staple of E4’s schedule until 2011 when it then found a new home on Comedy Central, which continues to air up to 17 episodes a day – it never quite captured the attention of today’s kids and teens until it landed on Netflix on 1st January 2018. By the spring 2018 edition of Playground Buzz, Friends was #2 in the Favourite TV chart, and according to industry statistics, Friends was the most streamed TV programme in the first quarter of 2018 immediately following its addition to the UK Netflix library.
Supposedly a ‘mid-millennial thing’, Friends is also, increasingly looking like a Generation Z thing. In the 2019 edition of the CHILDWISE Monitor survey, Friends came out as the top favourite programme among 5-16s, and received as many mentions as YouTube. But why? Why is a TV sitcom that ended before most of these children were born still so popular? Below, we explore 10 reasons why Friends is gaining a new generation of fans.
1. The Netflix Factor
One of the key elements to Friends’ newfound popularity among school-age children is that it’s on Netflix and children are all over Netflix. According to the 2019 CHILDWISE Monitor report, three in five children aged 7-16 have used Netflix in the last week, rising to almost three in four (72%) among teenagers aged 13-16 (by contrast 49% of teens say they watched the top TV channel in the last week). Beyond sheer numbers though, there are other key drivers contributing to the Netflix factor.
2. Mobile viewing
The mobile phone is now the device of choice for watching on demand content, with three in five children favouring mobile viewing compared to around half of children that prefer an old-fashioned TV set. While most content can now be viewed on a mobile device, Netflix is less glitchy than some of the ad-supported platforms and it offers content downloads (Friends included) so it is data friendly for those wanting to watch on the go. Being available to watch virtually whenever and wherever means Friends can be consumed in short bursts when waiting for a bus just as easily as sitting down for a marathon binge session in the comfort of one’s own room.
3. Episode selection
When Friends was only available on Comedy Central, selecting a specific episode or watching the entire series beginning to end in order and in your own time would have been difficult. It wasn’t impossible, but it would have meant buying or digging out the complete DVD boxset. Sales of Friends DVD Boxsets were reportedly strong up to and throughout 2013 while DVD sales started declining at least four years earlier so Friends was bucking the trend. But, watching parents’ old DVDs or forking out £50 would have been either uncool, inconvenient, or expensive. With all 234 episodes available on Netflix, children can choose to watch particular episodes in whatever order they wish, hassle free.
4. Old is made new again…
Netflix uploads new content on a near daily basis, and whether it is genuinely a new series or one from the archives, there is little difference in terms of how a show is promoted on the platform, especially to customers who are algorithmically identified as being most likely to watch and enjoy it. Old is made new again on Netflix, and simply being added to its vast library makes it seem new, regardless of actually how old it is. For example, in early 2017, children started talking about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – it is unlikely, given how old the show is, that children would have specifically searched for it on Netflix, but once it was added to the library in December 2016, children started watching, and what was once a goofy, at times cringe-worthy, sitcom from the early 90s was seemingly new and cool again. Fresh Prince and Friends may look somewhat dated to varying degrees and in differing ways, but Netflix doesn’t shout about age – they are simply new Netflix shows ready to be devoured by anyone with access.
5. Easy, relaxing watching
Friends is easy watching – there aren’t any convoluted plots to try and get one’s head around, there isn’t any complex dialogue that requires a thesaurus to decipher, and there isn’t a vast fictional universe that needs to be explored and understood. While some storylines might make more sense if the series is watched in order, Friends episodes are largely self-contained and viewers can dip in and out at whim without feeling lost. A lot of contemporary TV is high concept and designed to be watched with eager concentration, but Friends can be watched, enjoyed, and understood with only half an eye while scrolling through Instagram, doing homework, or playing a game. Plus, Netflix will automatically play episodes back to back and skip the credits, freeing the viewer from having to tap any buttons to keep it on a loop – watching in and of itself is not a distraction or a chore. Plus, having something play on a loop can provide a sense of familiarity which is soothing and relaxing – an important quality in programming when a number of children admit that they have recently felt stressed about school work or worried / anxious.
6. Just some light relief
Friends is lighthearted and largely steers away from heavy issues, providing some light relief. Sure, over the course of the series issues such as divorce and infertility are touched on, but ‘issues’ are rarely explored in any depth, and always dealt with in humorous ways. The six friends of Friends seemingly almost never worry about ‘adult’ things like paying rent, keeping up with bills, and finding a job, and when they do, they are not insurmountable problems, but easily solved. Plus, they always have each other for support, a short-term loan, or a job opening to offer.
7. 90s nostalgia
The 90s are very much in fashion right now, driven in large part by millennial nostalgia, but certainly influencing youth pop culture from clothing (Mom jeans, chokers, crop tops) and footwear (“ugly shoes”, platforms, Fila trainers), to music, TV, and film whether it be genre trends (return of teen films and romcoms on Netflix), reunions, reboots or simply a return to screens by way of Netflix and other on demand services (e.g. Spice Girls, Full House/Fuller House, Sabrina the Teenage Witch / The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina etc.)
8. Aspirational fantasy
The six friends all live together in New York city, spend more time in a coffee shop than at work, and are for the most part, carefree with few responsibilities. While navigating the path to fully-fledged adulthood, trying to figure out who they are and what they want, they all seemingly have enough money (despite all those hours sipping coffee) to stand on their own two feet without much parental help. As others have pointed out, not only is this a fantasy in general terms, but in the present economic climate, this is perhaps more than ever an aspirational fantasy for many young people – in the world of Friends, there is no student debt, no steeply rising house prices, no moving back in with their parents after university, and no financial crash to contend with. Friends offers today’s teens a fantasy of what their 20s could have been in the not so distant past, a life to experience only vicariously through the characters, rather than a life to try to aspire to get for themselves.
9. Simple, innocent times
When Friends first aired, mobile phones were rare and the internet was in its infancy. Watching the series back in 2019, both of these things are conspicuous in their near total absence. The friends sit around and talk to each other face to face, they’re not embroiled in text conversations with other people in other places, but they’re present and in the moment with each other. They also don’t have to deal with all that today’s teens and twenty-somethings have to in a digital, always connected mobile age, namely social media and all the joys and difficulties that brings. There are plenty of teen-oriented shows that have explored the ruin and reality of the internet age and what it’s like growing up digital - Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl being the prime examples. Both series have been very popular with Netflix-watching teens in recent years, but they already know and live through the realities and pressures of social media. Friends is a safe, sheltered haven and escape from that gritty reality, a return to a more ‘innocent’ simpler time and likely appreciated for it.
10. Friendship and community
Recent CHILDWISE research has revealed that children today are feeling increasingly lonely, despite being the most digitally connected generation in history, perhaps spending more time texting their friends than spending actual time in each other’s (physical) company. The series’ focus on friendships and relationships may not only be relatable to teens, who are learning how to navigate their own friendships, but watching this group of close, albeit fictional, friends may give some teens a sense of connection – as though they themselves are part of the group. At times when they feel lonely, or have fallen out with a friend, feelings of inclusion and connection could be really important.
But, beyond connections with fictional characters, Friends may also be bringing viewers themselves together. For years, Gen Xers and Millennials have bonded over shared jokes and references from the series, while highly quotable lines and well-loved quotes have peppered their conversations provoking knowing smiles and sniggers from those in the know. In the age of streaming media, the rise of narrowcasting, and with ever increasing volumes of content across hundreds of channels, platforms, and websites, there are perhaps fewer opportunities for viewers to congregate around, and bond over, a must-watch TV series. But Friends may just be providing today’s teens with those opportunities for community and bonding – the jokes are still funny, the references still plentiful, and the dialogue still quotable, so why should it matter that it was broadcast so long ago?
The 2019 CHILDWISE Monitor is a comprehensive annual report looking at 5 to 16-year-olds media consumption, purchasing and social habits as well as key behaviour. More than 2000 children in schools across the United Kingdom completed in-depth online surveys for the report, which is now in its 25th year.
Children are spending an increasing amount of time online, but a growing number feel lonely and want to unplug
30th January 2019
The average time children spend online has increased to three hours per day with a rise in the proportion accessing the internet out and about, according to data from our latest CHILDWISE Monitor Report 2019.
The above chart from the Monitor Report shows boys online for an hour a day more than girls, and online use increasing steeply with age.
But this year has also seen an increase in the number of children who feel lonely, as well as an increase in the number of 9-16 year olds who wish they could spend more time unplugged from their connected devices.
Children today may have a vast array of electronic gadgets to keep them entertained, and access to any games, music, video and information they want at the click of a button. But when it comes to having fun, traditional board and card games are still a popular pastime, with three quarters of children still keen on playing the old favourites like Snap, Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders.
So perhaps one could surmise that, thanks to children’s continued delight in traditional games, they could be tempted off their connected devices to play a board game with family and friends.
It looks as if this is something children may be happy to do, since the research shows that two in three say they are using their connected devices to stop them feeling bored, with children increasingly feeling alone and isolated.
As children age they are more likely to say they want to unplug, with three in ten 15-16 years olds saying they would like to spend more time disconnected from the internet and social media.
Meanwhile, children are increasingly using their connected devices this year, and there has also been an increase in the number of kids who would spend all day on their connected devices they could.
Around three in ten children say they have missed sleep and felt tired because they have spent too long on their connected devices.
Findings of the report also include…
The 2019 CHILDWISE Monitor is a comprehensive annual report looking at 5 to 16-year-olds media consumption, purchasing and social habits as well as key behaviour. More than 2000 children in schools across the United Kingdom completed in-depth online surveys for the report, which is now in its 25th year.
Gender gap in sports narrows as girls and boys kick traditional divides into touch
19th June 2017
The dividing lines between what are thought of as predominantly men’s and women’s sports are disappearing as girls increasingly take up traditionally male sports and vice versa.
Data from the annual CHILDWISE Monitor Report, released to celebrate National School Sports Week 2017 (26-30 June) shows that girls’ participation in football, cricket, rugby and basketball, all previously considered as boys sports, is on the increase, whilst more boys are taking part in sports like netball and gymnastics.
36% of girls aged 7 to 16 now play football at school (up from 32% in 2007), 20% play cricket (9% in 2007), 16% play rugby (6% in 2007) and 31% now play basketball (19% in 2007), whilst boys’ participation in these sports has changed little. Meanwhile, more boys are now playing netball (16% compared to 4% in 2007) and doing gymnastics (18%, 6% in 2007).
Children claim to take part in around two and a half hours of sport at school per week, a figure that has remained constant over many years, with boys consistently more likely to be taking part in more sport than girls. Children on the whole feel this is about right, but a significant minority would like to do more.
“PE is a compulsory subject on the National Curriculum, for children of all ages, and whilst the government no longer recommends a minimum number of hours of PE in schools a week, there is an unofficial two hour target, which it seems from our research that most children are receiving ” says Simon Leggett, Research Director from CHILDWISE.
Earlier this year, CHILDWISE reported on a sharp increase in the number of teenage girls taking part in sport at school, and suggested that this positive shift might be an effect of many years of public campaigning (eg. This Girl Can / Like a Girl) and female success at the London and Rio Olympics.
“For some children, especially 15-16 year olds, the amount of sport they are able to take part in at school is still far below their ideal”, says Leggett.
Over the last decade, children's participation in all sports at school other than Football have increased significantly, suggesting that there is now provision in schools allowing more children to take part in a more diverse range of sports, including those that were traditionally more gender biased.
Football has always been the main sport that children say they enjoy at school, with around half of children playing at school. Whilst it is most popular amongst boys (consistently their top sport), more than a third of girls say they play at school.
Athletics is a particular success story in schools, with general participation rising over the years, to a point where it is now the second most played school sport, with twice as many children taking part now compared with ten years ago. Over the years, girls’ interest has increased – they are now more likely than boys to do Athletics at school, and it is one of their top sports.
“Recent years have seen team GB success in athletics at the Olympics, particularly amongst female athletes, with high profile athletes emerging, such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, and Usain Bolt. All of this together with increasing social interaction via social media, is bound to have stirred interest in athletics at school amongst children” says Leggett.
Fitness Training is the fastest growing activity at school, with three times more children doing this now than in the past. Less a sport than a lifestyle choice, girls are marginally more likely to be using these facilities at school.
Basketball has gone from being a sport for boys, to one where participation is equal amongst girls and boys, with three in ten children taking part. Equally, Cricket is now only marginally more likely to be played by boys, where once boys were three times more likely than girls to take part.
Boys participation in Rugby is little changed over the last decade, with all of the growth in the girls’ sport – boys are still twice more likely to take part, but girls are now three times more likely to play than they were in the past.
Conversely, whilst Netball is still predominantly played by girls, numbers of boys playing have quadrupled over the last ten years. The same can be said for Gymnastics, still dominated by girls, but with boys three times more likely to take part than they used to be. And Swimming, once very popular with girls, is now a sport that girls and boys are equally likely to take part in at school.
Findings of the report also include…
One in five teenage girls is unhappy most of the time – but boys are also feeling the pressure, says new research
5th May 2017
One in ten children (9%) in the UK admit to being unhappy most of the time, according to research from the latest CHILDWISE Monitor Report 2017.
Unhappiness increases with age until it peaks among teenage children - 16% of 13-16s say they are not happy most of the time.
However, it is teenage girls who suffer most, with one in five (18%) feeling unhappy most of the time compared to 14% of teen boys.
In contrast, half of younger girls are more likely to describe themselves as ‘very happy’ (49% compared with 40% of boys) during their primary school years.
Simon Leggett, research director at CHILDWISE says: “The data shows that teenagers are the most stressed and anxious group, especially teen girls.
“Teenagers’ top concern is stress about school work, followed by general feelings of worry or anxiety, and thirdly experiencing fears that they are not good enough,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the Monitor data shows that a quarter of 9-16s find it difficult to go for several hours without checking their devices (mobile phones, tablets etc) and a quarter have missed out on sleep because they spend too long on these. One in five would like to spend more time without their devices and this increases to 42% of teen girls who would like to switch off more often.
Concerns about physical appearance intensify with age, with girls more likely to experience these feelings than boys.
“However, this is by no means a problem exclusive to girls with boys facing a great deal of pressure to look and behave in a certain way too,” says Simon Leggett.
“For example, 68% of girls age 11-16 say they have felt pressure to diet, but weight loss is not only a concern for girls – nearly half of all boys this age (44%) say they have felt pressure to lose weight,”
“Girls are more likely than boys to have experienced any of the listed concerns – but in most cases it is evident that these are not problems exclusive to girls,” says Simon Leggett.
Despite the pressures, one in five say they wouldn’t talk to an adult because they fear not being taken seriously and one in five don’t even know who to ask for help.
Other data from Monitor 2017 finds…
Under the radar trends and brand favourites from the Playground Buzz
1st December 2016
In this extract from the CHILDWISE Playground Buzz Autumn 2016, Helena talks about some of the trends and brand favourites amongst children that are hovering just below the radar...
“[My favourite is] doing Livestreams video because they are fun things to do and I can just be myself when I am doing them” (Teen Girl)
Launched at online video convention VidCon in June, Live.ly is the fast-rising, livestreaming sister site to Musical.ly. Fuelled almost entirely by word of mouth and Musical.ly’s 120 million young users worldwide, Live.ly shot to the top spot on the App Store despite zero promotion. While the lip-synching platform is mostly focused on music, Live.ly has potentially broader appeal with a mix of travel vloggers, musicians, magicians, fashionistas, and even a weekly show, “Cuppa with a Copper,” hosted by a London-based policeman. The two apps are fully integrated, so when popular Musical.ly stars, or ‘musers’, such as Baby Ariel and Jacob Sartorious, begin a Live.ly broadcast, their followers on Musical.ly are push-notified.
Since its initial release on iPhone, Live.ly has arrived on Android with features rolling out over time. Other updates to the app, which already promotes real-time fan engagement, include a virtual gift system which enables fans to compensate artists directly by purchasing and sending small gifts. Returning the love, artists/broadcasters can bestow their most dedicated viewers with real-time rewards such as awarding them the title of BFF, Best Fan Forever.
For many tech companies, livestreaming is the next big frontier in social media so Live.ly is already up against strong competition from the likes of Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope, and teen-girl favourite, YouNow. The Chinese app company isn’t only vying for teens’ eyeballs though, it’s on a quest to become a fully-fledged social network.
"Bottle flipping—it’s fun and it’s also healthy for my body” (Tween Boy)
Water bottle flipping became the craze of the summer after a video of 18-year old Michael Senatore performing the trick at a high school talent show went viral in May. In the YouTube video, which has now been viewed more than 6 million times, the contestant walks up to a table, pauses dramatically, and then flips a water bottle in the air to land standing perfectly upright. The tricky trend, which has proved especially popular among tween and teen boys, has now inspired a slew of mobile games such as Bottle Flip and Bottle Flip 2k16, both of which have achieved high rankings in the App Store charts.
“Aphmau she's my fave like overlord I fangirl all the time when I see her vid” (Tween Girl)
YouTuber and Minecraft roleplay artist, Aphmau, has cultivated quite a devoted fan following. Her YouTube channel, Aphmau, is home to a collection of series, most of which are set in the world of Minecraft. Launching in 2014, her most popular series, Minecraft Diaries, now consists of three seasons of up to a hundred 15-30 minute episodes. Featuring a range of mods and mini-games, Minecraft Diaries and other collections focus on the adventures and relationships of a gang of characters, including protagonist Aphmau, and utilise the voice work of other YouTubers. The woman behind Aphmau, 27 year old Jess, has also created a slew of mashups, such as a long-running series using the Pixelmon mod, a fan-created mod that adds Pokémon elements into the world of Minecraft. More recently, Aphmau has added several crossover episodes with other fictional universes such as games, Five Nights at Freddies and Undertale, and animated TV series, Steven Universe.
“[My favourite game is] Skyrim still, because dragons and swords and spells” (Teen Boy)
Action role-playing game, Skyrim, was first released in 2011 with tremendous success and continues to generate buzz among teen boys today. In October 2016, the much-hyped remastered edition, Skyrim: Special Edition, the fifth title in the Elder Scrolls series of fantasy open world games, will be released. The new edition includes all DLCs from the original release, mod support on Xbox and PS4 consoles (previously only available on PC), as well as revamped art and effects.
Girls, Fans and Negotiation
11th July 2016
Before coming to CHILDWISE I spent four years studying girls and fandom as part of my PhD, immersing myself in fan communities across several different social networks. Specifically, my thesis looked at cultural perceptions and stereotypes of fangirls and analysed girls’ fan culture in the context of structural age / gender inequalities. Taking fans of tween favourite iCarly as my case study, I examined girl fans’ negotiation of the term ‘fangirl’, how they take up fangirl stereotypes in relation to themselves and others, and the ways in which fangirl identities are performed online.
The latest data from the CHILDWISE Playground Buzz report shows that a number of teenage girls are engaging in ‘traditional’ fan activities such as reading and writing fan fiction, attending fan conventions, and discussing the virtues of particular ‘ships’, that is, the romantic pairing of two fictional characters or celebrities. While only a minority of young people may count themselves as a member of a particular fandom or fan community in which these activities are often a focus, most young people are likely to identify as a fan of something, whether it be a TV show, a football team, or a musician.
Activities or membership aside, the way that young fans are talked about in the media differs greatly depending on the gender of the fan in question, as well as the perceived gender-skew of the fan object. Take these two examples. For the most part, boys’ fannish involvement in football culture is, if not expected, largely unremarkable, while girls’ fandom for boybands has historically attracted huge amounts of mostly negative attention, if not distinctly scathing criticism. From The Beatles to Twilight to One Direction, the reams of column inches focused on groups of girl fans, or ‘fangirls’, have largely consisted of moral panic, overwrought hand-wringing, inappropriate sexualisation, and a large dose of pathologisation, with nigh-on predictable references to girls as frenzied, crazy, hysterical, and obsessed.
Given the long standing nature of these widespread perceptions of fangirls which, incidentally, date back way before The Beatles to at least 1844 with the advent of Lisztomania, they seem (unfortunately) unlikely to change in the near future. In fact, they seem as potent and pervasive as ever, despite the so-called ‘fanification’ of mainstream media – the way the media industry increasingly appears to invite, cultivate, and indeed co-opt, fan-like engagement from its audiences. In other words, the industry encourages fannish devotion from its audiences, but singles out girls’ devotion and mocks them for their interests as well as their emotional responses to, and interactions with, their object of affection. If girl fans are well aware of the stereotype that demotes them and how the world sees them (hint: they are), then how do they respond to, or negotiate, their unfavourable characterisation?
In short, what I found in my research is that the term ‘fangirl’ was negotiated in a variety of different, unstable, and complex ways, and for many girls, being in fandom involves a continual balancing-act of being ‘enough’ fangirl, but not ‘too much’. For some girls in some spaces, it’s acceptable to identify oneself as a fangirl - it implies one’s belonging, value, and even status in the community. The readiness with which one self-labels, however, often shifts when in the presence of those considered too close to the negative stereotype (too young, loud, crazy, or ‘girly’). Other girls use the term in a lightly self-deprecating way to downplay their fandom and create distance from those considered more obsessive or unruly. This self-aware manoeuvre can protect against outside judgement as it indicates to others that they are conscious of their own behaviour, of how they may be perceived as ‘too much’ while suggesting that they are, in fact, in control. At the other end of the spectrum, some girls merely disassociate themselves from the term, while others tend to apply the term only to their fellow fans and usually in a negative sense. This strategy of name-calling, adopting the very language that the media unrelentingly applies to girl fans, often functions as a form of self-preservation, if not self-legitimisation as it creates distance from, and elevates oneself above, the ‘excessive’ fangirls.
What this illustrates, broadly speaking, is that being a girl and a fan is often a continual process of negotiation. It is not a simple case of fighting the stereotype, uncritical acceptance, or blissful unawareness. Girls are neither conformist nor resistant, positioned at one end of an active / passive spectrum, but rather they are none, both, and everything in between. Girls are negotiators of media and equally, they continually negotiate and renegotiate the term ‘fangirl’, their position as fans within media culture, and their fan performance according to (among the many factors) context, purpose, and known or imagined audience.
Research suggests fandom performs important functions in youth development and identity construction, that interests shared and friends made in fan spaces can be of great importance in the creation of a personal culture, and that fandom, when experienced as a supportive place, can facilitate self-disclosure and emotional self-expression. It may be a long wait until the value and importance of fan culture, for girls especially, is universally acknowledged and understood, but working to understand how girls negotiate their fraught position as fans and what both the fan object and the fan community means to them may help us get there a little quicker.
Why kids consider their mobile phone essential
3rd March 2016
In our recent CHILDWISE Monitor Survey half of all 9-16 year olds said that their mobile phone is the first thing they check in the morning and/or the last thing they check at night. The level of dependence doubles across the age from 31% of 9-10 year olds, to 61% of 15-16 year olds.
33% of 13-15 year olds said they couldn’t live without their mobile phone, the figure is 36% for girls 11 – 16.
‘Because I need it, it is vital to my well being’ said one girl of 17.
I can vouch from personal experience over half term having to endure the suffering of a certain 15 year old in my household who couldn’t get her phone repaired for three days.
Mobile phones are teenage kids portal to their social life: what is being said and by whom, what their peers are thinking about TV programmes, what is considered cool and what is not. Not forgetting - the instant entertainment hit of posts on Instagram and Snapchat.
The annual CHILDWISE Monitor Report talks to more than 2000 children aged 5-6 across the UK and is now available.
Toddlers and Technology
8th October 2015
Access to media is growing year on year among pre-schoolers. Tablet computers and touch screen technology in general, have made a significant impact on all age groups, but most notably among young children and toddlers. In fact – by the age of two, most children are now using these devices, with access not far off universal by the age of four.
The latest figures from the CHILDWISE Monitor Pre-school Report show that 73% of children under five use these devices – up from 27% in 2012. CHILDWISE is a leading, independent research specialist in children and young people.
Pre-schoolers appear to have rapidly adopted the tablet. It has quickly emerged as a most-wanted device for children, even among the very young – and parents have encouraged this, considering tablets and the games and apps on them, as a great way to keep small children entertained and provide a learning benefit. The length of an average session is testament of parent’s approval, with toddlers typically entertained for around one and half hours at a time.
Greater access to on-demand services is undoubtedly a contributory factor in the length of these sessions, along with the creative world of games and applications. One in six pre-schoolers also use a tablet or computer to video call family and friends, using applications such as Skype and FaceTime.
The report shows how pre-school children and their parents are increasingly focusing their viewing attention towards on-demand services. Three out of five households now use these to some extent. This generation of children is growing up with the internet’s new mode of serving and searching for content, and they can decide what they want to watch and when. By age 3-4, the majority are using these services to access their favourite TV shows.
Pre-schoolers account for around a third of all children under the age of 16 and are an important demographic, both in terms of numbers and because these are their earliest years, when patterns of behaviour and attitudes are first established.
Studies have previously shown the older the child, the greater the likelihood that they will own and use computers, smartphones and the internet. However, this new report breaks the traditional correlation previously seen between increasing age and device ownership.
More than a quarter of pre-schoolers have their very own computer or tablet, according to the new data. One in two use a mobile phone. The number using apps has soared since 2012 with more than half now using them. This rapid take-up and usage by such small children reveals how important truly intuitive technology now is. New technology is becoming more accessible to very young children because it doesn’t need a manual, it can be operated easily and instinctively.
The CHILDWISE research shows that by the age of four most youngsters are self-sufficient on a tablet or computer and a significant minority are becoming independent players across the spectrum of mobile phones, TV and the internet.
Constant access to technology is here to stay, and it seems that pre-schoolers and their parents have embraced this like extra toppings on an ice cream dessert.
The annual CHILDWISE Pre-School Report talks to more than 1000 parents of 0-4 year olds, asking about their children’s media use and parents’ spending habits
Parents' pre-school shopping habits
11th September 2015
“Mummy, can I have that? Pleeeease!" This is the predictable cry of children everywhere when faced with a toy shop window or an eye catching TV advert. The cry that even a two year old can perfect, as they nurture a growing sense of their own preferences and interests. But the answer is “no”…unless of course, it’s Christmas, their birthday, they've done something good or you need to bribe them (!).
Research has shown that the average child costs their parents £460 a year by nagging them for goodies, which could range from sweets or chocolate, to more unusual items such as cleaning products which have appeared in TV adverts – my five year old son is an excellent ambassador for Vanish cleaning products, so I know this only too well.
One way to avoid the stress of pester power is to shop online, and with our buying habits becoming increasingly shaped by technology, it comes as no great shock that we as parents are leading an online revolution in UK retail. Research from the latest CHILDWISE Pre-school Report reveals that the majority of parents would prefer to shop online, or at least order online and collect in store, when buying toys and gifts for their pre-schoolers.
Online retailer Amazon features as the single most popular shopping destination for toys and gifts for under-fives. And whilst collectively, the major supermarkets do account for more young children’s gift and toy purchasing, more than a quarter of parents prefer to shop online for toys from Tesco, Asda, and Sainsburys.
Argos is the second most common destination for kid’s toys, almost as popular as Amazon. Parents prefer the in-store experience there, but a quarter currently choose to shop at Argos online. Argos have recently begun the process of replacing their paper catalogue with tablets in their new digital stores, hoping to bring the convenience of browsing online to the high street.
For friends, family members, and often parents themselves, it’s not always easy to know what gift to get a child under five — at this age their brand loyalties are beginning to take shape, but their interests can change quickly and often. Our report shows that whilst parents are most likely to be consulted about gift buying, in fact two out of five pre-schoolers choose most of their own toys, with boys choosing top brands including Thomas the Tank Engine, Spiderman, Lego, and girls choosing Disney’s Frozen, Peppa Pig, and Barbie.
And how much do parents spend on toys and gifts for their under 5s? We discovered that most parents expect to spend around £100 on their child for their birthday, and for Christmas presents, a quarter will spend in excess of £150.
The annual CHILDWISE Pre-School Report talks to more than 1000 parents of 0-4 year olds, asking about their children’s media use and parents’ spending habits
20 years of Monitoring children
11th June 2015
The CHILDWISE Monitor Report celebrated its 20th birthday recently, and looking back made me think about those early days, when asking children about technology was a more simple task, because they had relatively little access to it, and what they did use, came in discrete, easily defined categories - back then phones were just used for calling people, and watches just told the time!
Take the ubiquitous mobile phone. When I started working on the report in 1998, we were asking children if they had their own telephone extension in their bedroom (remember the landline?), and we asked if anyone in their family had a mobile phone, followed by an explanation of what a mobile phone actually was! Only a few years previous to this, we were referring to ‘cellular mobile phones’, before the shortened term caught on. In fact, back then only seven in ten children thought that mobile phones would catch on at all. It wasn’t until pay as you go became more popular at the turn of the Millennium, that children’s ownership took hold. Back then we measured how children used their phones against a list of five different activities, all of which seemed futuristic at the time, but are now just part of a long list of things every child expects their mobile to do.
Children’s TV, and TV channels in general, have also increased exponentially since the early days of the Monitor. For Monitor’s first outing back in 1994, the TV channels we asked if children had watched fitted into one question with 24 codes (as much as our software would allow per question back then), and only three of these were dedicated children’s channels – the Children’s Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are still going strong (The Children’s Channel closed in 1998), but they are now part of a list of almost 20 children’s channels that we ask about, along with another 100 channels that have some appeal to boys and girls of different ages.
The biggest challenge we have faced is asking about children’s access to and use of the internet. To begin with, we even felt it necessary to ask if their school had email / internet access, somewhat a prerequisite today. The Monitor survey itself has always been asked of children in schools, as that is where we feel we get the best out of them, but it has only been administered online in schools since 2008. Up until that point, computer and internet technology in schools was varied across the country, and wouldn’t have supported a full roll out. Terminology has been another issue – going ‘online’ was once a long and protracted affair involving noisy modems, and children were limited in their use because of expense. But broadband and wifi mean kids are now always online, effortlessly, everywhere, so we have to create new ways to question them on what they do ‘online’.
Children do not carry the same baggage that we do as adults, and they are therefore much more suited to adopting any new technology that comes their way, adapting it to suit their needs, and making it a part of their world. Through our research with children, we are constantly learning about this process, and using this knowledge to help us better communicate with these ‘digital natives’.
To mark the occasion of Monitor’s 20th birthday, we produced our Connected Kids report, using 20 years’ worth of data explore how technology has changed the lives of children so much in such a relatively short time frame. See more details of the report here.
The Secret Life of My 4 Year Old
12th February 2015
Channel 4 gave us a glimpse into the lives of little ones this week, when they uncovered The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds. The programme showed children as they made friends, argued, shared, stood up for themselves and found their own places in the social group.
As the mother of a four year old myself, I’ve often wondered what the world looks like from my son’s perspective – how fun it would be to see him in his classroom, what he gets up to, what he says and how he interacts with others when I’m not around. As adults, we only ever get little snippets into their world, and even then I often question how much of what he’s telling me actually did happen.
But having watched the documentary, I think I’m happier not knowing. As a researcher, it is fascinating to see how children learn as a result of their experiences, but up close and personal, children can be quite mean to one another. Words and actions that would probably upset me for a week are easily forgotten by them, and they quickly move on to the next challenge. Learning from friends and learning how to be a friend is really important, which is why I will leave my son to develop in his own world, in secret.
A large number of pre-school children regularly attend a childcare setting, away from their
parents. Two out of three 0-4 year olds do so (66%), rising to 91% among the oldest children (3-4).
All 3-4 year olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year – this is often taken as 15 hours each week, for 38 weeks of the year (term times). Some 2 year olds are also eligible.
From the CHILDWISE MONITOR PRE-SCHOOL REPORT 2014 - available now