Children and their evolution

There are fewer children than there once were, but they are still an important market, with influence over the purchase of clothes, food, mobiles and toys

Over the past 30 years society has seen major shifts in the structure of family life, which has seen growing trends towards older parents, step-families and one-parent families. Such changes have had radical effects on the lives of seven- to ten-year-olds.

According to Mintel’s latest research on marketing to children aged between seven and ten, children are becoming much more sophisticated as they move from the lower end of this age group (seven or eight) to the upper end (nine or ten), making this age group an important target for marketers.

In terms of education, the majority of these children take their school work very seriously. More than eight in ten say that it is important to work hard at school and 45 per cent already intend to go to university. The desire to go to university is stronger among girls than boys, and is more widespread among nine- to ten-year-olds.

Despite the increasing emphasis on education, socialising plays a significant role in young children’s lifestyles – six in ten claim that the more friends they have, the better. However, nearly half of them believe that friends can also be the cause of problems and sometimes get them into trouble. Family life is also important to seven- to ten-year-olds – eight in ten agree that they enjoy spending time with their family. Nevertheless, 22 per cent of children claim they need privacy and time alone and this need for privacy tends to strengthen as they get older.

Concern among some adults that children are growing up too quickly may be dispelled to some extent by the finding that serious interest in the opposite sex still seems to be in the future for the majority of children in this age group, with only 15 per cent of respondents thinking that it is important to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Late childhood can be a time when there is a growing awareness of global problems and social issues. A high proportion – 72 per cent – describe themselves as very worried about cruelty to children. Some 65 per cent of these children are worried about cruelty to animals. Other topics, such as the dangers of cigarettes and drugs, also figure highly among children’s worries.

In relation to money, Mintel says that eight in ten seven- to ten-year-olds have a bank or building society account. A Girobank study last year estimated that children under 16 have a purchasing power of £2.3bn a year. The majority of children open their first account when they are six years old or younger. Children from ABC1 families are most likely to have a bank or building society account, and generally have more money saved. But CD2E parents are more generous in terms of pocket money, with more than half of seven- to ten-year-olds receiving £2-plus per week – only four in ten ABC1 children receive this much. Toys and games are the most common purchases with pocket money, with confectionery and crisps in second place.

Mobile phone ownership is relatively low in this age group, with only 13 per cent of these children actually owning a mobile phone. Parents are the most likely recipients of calls from their children’s mobile phones, followed by friends and family members. The use of computers is, however, almost universal, with eight in ten using one at school and two-thirds using a computer at home. Children are aware that they are susceptible to the influence of advertising – 37 per cent agree that ads make them buy things, and 34 per cent claim they like to buy things they see in ads on the TV. Mintel adds that actual appreciation of TV ads is rather subdued, with only one in five agreeing that they like the ads on the TV, and 13 per cent saying the same about radio advertisements.

It is evident that children are preoccupied with their appearance, in particular with clothes. Almost all children aged between seven and ten go shopping for clothes with their parents. Children invariably have a great say in choosing clothes, especially trainers. Some 63 per cent of children say they chose their latest pair of trainers themselves. In terms of attitudes towards shopping for clothes, half of all boys agree shopping for clothes is boring, compared with only 13 per cent of girls.

Clearly, young girls are more fashion-conscious than their male counterparts and they feel it is important for them to keep up with the latest fashion trends. Sevento ten-year-olds also become increasingly body-conscious, says Mintel. Between the ages of seven and eight, one in five children use deodorant, 31 per cent use hair gel and 25 per cent apply body spray. By the time children reach nine and ten years old, this increases to over half in each case.

Mintel forecasts that the number of children in the seven-to-ten age range is set to decrease by 6.6 per cent, to 2.9 million, by 2005. Consequently, marketers will need to be more assiduous in targeting this shrinking but important group of consumers.

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