Tapping into generation tech

Despite a declining demographic trend, the young remain highly important as consumers, and it is essential to keep apace with their fast-changing attitudes.

Access to technology among sevento 19-year-olds is growing at a rapid rate with more than a quarter of sevento ten-year-olds having access to the Internet.

The latest research from BMRB’s Youth Target Group Index, an annual survey measuring consumer attitudes and behaviour in the seven to ten, 11 to 14 and 15 to 19 age groups, shows that the youth market is developing at a faster rate than any other consumer group.

Key areas of growth identified in this year’s survey are increased computer access among the younger age group, the growth of bedroom TV access for 11to 14-year-olds and the rise in mobile phone usage and ownership among older teenagers.

For the sevento ten-year age group, computer use has been virtually universal for several years, with the number using computers at home having increased from about 58 per cent in 1998 to 64 per cent according to this year’s data.

Meanwhile, the number of children in this age group who claim to have access to the Internet, at home or elsewhere, has more than quadrupled from six per cent to 26 per cent over the same period.

Unsurprisingly, the likelihood of access increases with age – 20 per cent among seven-year-olds rising to 34 per cent for those aged ten – and is heavily related to the social grade of parents. Youngsters in AB households are twice as likely to access the Internet as those classified as DE.

There is also some difference between the sexes at this age level, with ten-year-old boys being the most frequent surfers of the Web.

Among the 11 to 14 age group, the inexorable rise of the presence of a TV in the bedroom continues. TGI data show that the 70 per cent penetration of 1998 has grown to 74 per cent with weekday evenings being the favourite time to watch TV in the bedroom. Again social grade seems to be a key indicator but, on this occasion, in the opposite direction, with children in AB households being the least likely to have bedroom TV access.

The declining minority who do not have TVs in their bedrooms are less outgoing and peer-group influenced than the average for their age group. They appear to be more health and environmentally conscious, as well as having a more positive attitude towards saving money. While they are not especially anti-television, they claim to be more anti-advertising than those with TV sets in their bedrooms.

Taste in TV programmes also differs between those youngsters who have bedroom TV access and those who do not. The latter group is less likely to watch soaps or youth-targeted programmes, but more likely to be regular viewers of news and current affairs programmes. Such preferences could be based on their social grade background or simply on the fact that these are a more serious-minded group of youngsters.

As TVs in the bedroom become more commonplace, one interesting dynamic is that of its attachment to a video cassette recorder (VCR). Penetration of bedroom-located videos within the 11 to 14 age group has leapt from under 30 per cent in 1998 to more than 40 per cent in 2000. The number of youngsters using a VCR to replay taped programmes remains static and levels of ad avoidance have also stayed the same with about half claiming to “always fast-forward through commercial breaks”.

The growth in ownership and use of mobile phones has been perhaps the most notable phenomenon among older teenagers. Mobile phone ownership among 15to 19-year-olds has grown fivefold in just two years, from 15 per cent in 1998 to 75 per cent in 2000. This is despite increased speculation about health hazards related to mobile phone usage, which has resulted in fewer phone companies targeting the “more susceptible” young.

Youth TGI estimates that between 1998 and 1999 calls made from mobile phones by this age group rose by around 17 per cent to an average of just over ten a week. By 2000, overall phone usage, including text messages, had more than doubled to 21 calls a week with an annual phone bill estimated to be about &£200.

Among those who have their own phone, some two-thirds claim to pay for their calls with a quarter having the bill paid by parents. The remaining ten per cent say costs are shared with parents or another family member.

The research shows that, despite the importance of this sector, attempting to pigeon-hole the 9.3 million sevento 19-year-olds in the UK into one homogeneous group is impossible and even tighter age sub-categorisation can over-simplify things. However, monitoring young people’s changing attitudes will prove increasingly crucial if the marketing profession wants to stay in touch with this rapidly-growing force.

Factfile is edited by Ãâ¦se Hedberg. Richard Bedwell, consultant at TGI BMRB International, contributed

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