New NPD report
Those are just some findings of NPD Group's new "Kids and Consumer Electronics Report," which also shows that children are actively using personal music devices, digital cameras and DVD players by age 7 -- some six months earlier than a year ago. The study found astounding growth in the category among youth: Twice as many kids aged 4 to 14 owned personal music devices and digital cameras in 2005, while cellphone ownership in the age group has shot up 50% since last year.
"I think it's very natural. They see their parents or older siblings using these products and they're intrigued. I don't think it's much different from our generation when we wanted an Easy-Bake oven," said NPD analyst and study author Anita Frazier. "It still seems rather mysterious to the parental generation, but it simply 'is' for these kids."
'New digital reality'
She said the real significance of the study is its underlying message to marketers -- not only electronics manufacturers, but those who sell any product that might be consumed by this digital generation.
Marketers "have to take into account this new digital reality of kids' lives and consider it in all product design and marketing plans. From the kinds of products that appeal to kids to the way you talk to them on packages and in advertising -- it has to be a consideration," Ms. Frazier said.
The top products personally owned by kids were video-game systems, at just over 40% of households polled, followed by CD players, at just under 40%, and TVs, at 31%. However, the top electronic product in households with children aged 4 to 14 was the desktop computer, at 94%, followed by DVD players and TVs, at a little less than 90% of households.
The survey information came from parents: NPD polled adults over age 25 with children aged 4 to 14 in their households. It did not ask who is doing most of the buying. However, Ms. Frazier said her own peer group experience leads her to suspect it is the parents who are supporting digital habits.
"I know a lot of kids who ask for iTunes gift cards for their birthdays or other occasions, so in some ways they're supporting their own downloading, but in some cases parents and families are sharing playlists. I think adults are becoming so reliant on their own 'gadgets' that it's not uncomfortable for them to support their kids' habits."
On the rise
Indeed, digital savvy is on the rise in general. The latest Consumer Electronics Association survey issued in March showed the average household (with or without children) owns 26 consumer electronics products and spends about $1,200 annually on consumer electronics.
The biggest growth products in the CEA study were MP3 players, at 25% of all households at the end of 2005, up from 15% in 2004, and digital cameras, at 57%, up from 49% a year earlier. Having children seems to influence digital-camera buying, as ownership was much higher in the NPD households-with-kids study, at more than 87%.
'A ripe target'
Kids still lag in one area, though: digital-music-player ownership. About 23% of households with children had them in the NPD study, but fewer than 9% of the owners were aged 4 to 14.
NPD's study "shows there is a big market among the youth set for [consumer electronic] products," Ms. Frazier said. "Whether it's creating products specifically for that age group or simply modifying your marketing message, they are a ripe target."