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Audience Observations: Kids and their Digital UsagePrimary tabs

Brands often focus on people with earning power. Much of the marketing spotlight is shined on generational groups like Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and more recently, Generation Z.

Kids, however, are a demographic that can’t be overlooked. Defined as people ages 13 and under, they’re growing up in an ever-advancing digital world.

If you’re a brand that aims to reach children online, you’ve probably wondered about usage of digital platforms. But before diving into research that sheds light on the topic, let’s outline some basic regulations brands must follow when marketing to them.

The Federal Trades Commission Act

Brands seeking guidance on advertising to children should first turn to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC enforces a handful of guidelines to protect young consumers, including the Federal Trades Commission Act, which prohibits deceptive or unfair practices in advertising.

To protect kids, the FTC determines if an ad violates the act by analyzing it from the viewpoint of a child. This requires examining if an ad is fair, truthful, not misleading and can back up its claims.

The Children’s Online Protection Act

Advertisers must also abide by COPPA (the Children’s Online Protection Act) when marketing to kids on the internet. The act, which was passed in 1998, applies to websites and online services directed to children ages 13 and under as well as general audience sites that may also collect a child’s personal information.

In COPPA, the FTC frowns upon any unfair and deceptive acts or practices to collect and use the personal information of kids online. If your brand is marketing to children, you must obtain parental consent before acquiring, using or disclosing the personal information of kids.

Self Regulation

Founded in 1974, CARU (the Children’s Advertising Review Unit) promotes responsible advertising to kids. It’s works in partnership with four major advertising trade associations through the National Advertising Review Council.

CARU publishes self-regulatory guidelines for children’s advertising. They apply to national ads directed primarily to kids under 12 and ensure advertising aimed at kids are not deceptive, unfair or inappropriate.

With the rules laid out, let’s move onto the good stuff. Here are three insights on kids’ digital habits discussed on a recent episode of the eMarketer Podcast.

The average age kids get their first phone is 10 years old.

This is according to a 2016 study by Influence Central. However, that figure could be a lot lower in the future. eMarketer estimates that one in four kids, ages 11 or younger, have a mobile phone. They also found one in 10 kids, ages 11 or younger, have a smartphone.

Video is the preferred content of choice among children and as a result, they’re spending quite a bit of time in front of screens.

A 2017 Gallup study examined weekly hours spent on free time activities for US children ages 2-10 years old. The findings revealed that screen-based play for children was 20 hours. In comparison, outside play was approximately 10 hours.

The preference of video has raised the profile of YouTube with kids.

How popular is YouTube among children? Smarty Pants, a marketing insights firm that conducts youth and family research, conducts an annual survey of the top 20 brands according to US child internet users. YouTube ranked as No. 1 in 2017, beating out the likes of Toys R Us, Lego and Crayola.

That’s because in order to meet COPPA standards, kids aren’t allowed on social networks. But recently, Facebook has launched a COPPA compliant version of Messenger for children. Messenger Kids is an app for smartphones and tablet devices, but controlled by a parent’s Facebook account. At the moment, it has no ads and a preview version of it is only available on the Apple app store.

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