Electronics & What Kids Want

The electronics industry always talks about the end-consumer market in a rather impersonal way: There are those buyers in mature, saturated markets; the new middle-class buyers living in emerging markets; the first-mover buyers who sleep in front of shop doors so they can be the first to have the latest gadget; and the women who shop online and manage most of the family and household spending.

Rarely do we talk about children being a major part of the consumer electronics landscape. Market research firm {complink 11491|NPD Group Inc.} recently released a report, “Kids and Consumer Electronics, 2011 Edition,” showing how lucrative this market is.

Here are some juicy tidbits that manufacturers may salivate over, especially as the back-to-school selling season revs up:

  • Kids' desire to use consumer electronics devices influences many household purchases. Many consumer electronics were purchased specifically for the kids.
  • 78 percent of portable video game systems purchased and 56 percent of portable digital media players (PDMP) purchased were given to a child.
  • About as many kids use computers (73 percent) as they do televisions (74 percent).
  • Almost 60 percent of kids use a portable or console gaming system.
  • In households with kids ages 4 to 14, newer devices such as e-readers and tablets were acquired last year.
  • The average number of days where kids use cellphones, PDMPs, and portable video game systems has declined slightly since last year.

Admittedly, I'm of two minds on this. I was both wowed and horrified after skimming the report and watching the video below.

The business side of me sees the value in these stats. Understanding how kids play, knowing which devices they want, understanding how parents and grandparents decide to buy certain products, and making sense of technology usage patterns are a natural extension of manufacturing and retail channel marketing strategies. It's about spotting trends and filling the real or imagined consumer need.

It's not a new idea. In the best-selling book The Tipping Point , Malcolm Gladwell writes about woman who worked at an ad agency and who leveraged a global network of young, savvy “correspondents” to find out what they were wearing, watching, and doing. She used that info to create very successful advertising campaigns for a number of companies.

But my inner mom — although I don't have kids of my own, I do have parental, big-sister tendencies — thinks a line has to be drawn somewhere. The idea of companies exploiting kids to increase sales and continually feeding the commercial “got-to-have-this-hot-new-thing” cycle turns my stomach. Polling kids about their desired technology platform, without encouraging them to make responsible buying decisions or think creatively, will spin out another generation intent on keeping up with the Joneses.

As with all things, though, there are two sides to the same coin. NPD, for example, suggests that a decline in consumer electronics device usage means “kids are maxed out on time,” and that device usage behavior shifts as the novelty of the hot new gizmo wanes.

I, on the other hand, would like to think that maybe parents made their kids turn off their cellphones and video games and told them to do their homework or go outside and run around, as children used to do.

25 comments on “Electronics & What Kids Want

  1. Adeniji Kayode
    August 9, 2011

    This is really inspiring Jennifer, for some reasons, it never come to mind that a major increase in  demand for electronics are as a result of kids.

    While they have a way of making parents to buy them even sometimes parents use them as birthday gifts or on the other hand -something you promise them to make they focus or do what you feel is good for them which you might not possibly be able to get them doing ordinarily.

    I agree with you Jennifer that the one thing that can cause a decline in the demand of electronics by kids is when parents put a control on them, aside this, i see more increase and demand by kids for more electronics, moreover, manufacturers will not stop manufacturing them and thinking of more ways of making most of this “young” opportunities.

  2. Hawk
    August 9, 2011

    Jennifer, As a grown adult, I know I would love everyone of those things that kids seem to like. The difference (and perhaps why marketers target them) is that kids can get their parents to buy these for them. I like the same stuff but there are too many conflicting demands I must pay for first. By the way, the kids should enjoy this status now; adulthood is only a few clicks away!

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    August 9, 2011

    Great blog Jenn! I have the same bipolar reaction to kids and electronics–on one hand, they are a great tool, on the other hand they can turn kids into couch potatos. As far as the latest must-have item: Whatever happened to Cabbage Patch dolls?

  4. prabhakar_deosthali
    August 10, 2011

    For kids anything that encourages their creativity is always welcome by the parents. So while designing something for the kids , it should be  a mix of fun, learning and creating something. And the modern electronics is well capable of creating some wonderful products for the kids.

  5. Daniel
    August 10, 2011

    Jennifer, most of the parents wish to have some sort of electronic toys to their infants. They want their babies to be happy and diverted their attention to such toys. Now a day’s parents prefer kid’s laptop and similar kind high end gaming devices for their kids and hence they are also forming a consumer category. Most of the infants and kids toys are coming with complex internal circuits having Microcontroller and DSP processors. So in coming years manufactures may focus more on this sector and mayn’t neglect the kid consumers.

  6. Jennifer Baljko
    August 10, 2011


    Thanks for the comments. Like Hawk said, whether its adults or kids, most of us have come to want the same tech devices, but how quickly that desire converts to a sale depends on who controls the purse strings. Even though kids don't whip out their wallets, they have stronger currency: whining persistence that wins over parents and grandparents.

    Like the others mentioned, too, the complex chipsets finding their way into what was once very simple devices infant and children's toys is also astounding. We're definitely living in the 21st century, where old-time science fiction movie scenes have become reality.

    Barbara – Haven't the American Girl Dolls buried the Cabbage Patch Kids (and geez, aren't we showing our age in that comparison)? My friend's 8-year-old recently filled me in on that phenomenon.

    *Shrug* Who would have thought I would be tracking trends popular with the 8-10-year-old set? *Sigh* They will indeed grow into the next young-adult consumer market with disposable income who will demand better, faster, and cheaper technology. Makes sense for the tech industry to start thinking a few years into the future.

  7. jbond
    August 10, 2011

    I have to agree with your comment that I too was shocked and awed at the numbers. It is great for companies to have numbers like this and to be able to see just where their products are going. On the other hand it is despicable to think that the kids of today have this much technology for no other reason than to entertain themselves. It is creating a sedentary and lazy generation that doesn't know what hard work is or how to entertain themselves without technology. Companies have been marketing kids forever; look at all the television ads for toys and sugary foods. The problem is those were fairly cheap products. Now they're aiming expensive electronics at kids. And since the kid’s friends have them, parents feel they need to give them to their kids too. I'm still shocked that 10 year olds have cell phones and apparently need them.

  8. Jennifer Baljko
    August 10, 2011

    BTW, thought you guys would get a kick out of this infographic about how college students use technology. Again alarming but really shows how it can be put to good use:

  9. _hm
    August 10, 2011

    New trends like that of electroincs gizmos are integral part of life. This is true for adult as well as kids. More prudent apporach for these new trends will be to embarace them and make  most out of it. As parent we encourage our children to be more technology savy. This helps them in many aspects. For example in this summer vacation they watch YouTube but they also learn so many aspects of sports from you tube. I consider YouTube and internet in general to be very effective educational tool and universal encyclopedia. This also true for television programs, video games and other devices. I wish kids good luck in adepting to new technology.

  10. Ariella
    August 10, 2011

    I, on the other hand, would like to think that maybe parents made their kids turn off their cellphones and video games and told them to do their homework or go outside and run around, as children used to do.

    Hope spring eternal, Jennifer. It's very hard to get the kids to turn off the computer games and go outside to bike ride or play ball. Between the lure of TV and that of electronics, it's no wonder that children today are so sedentary and prone to obesity.  Interstingly, though, one of my daughters voluntarily abstained from Goodreads for one week. I don't know if the idea was promoted there as a challenge or something else but it worked for that respite. That doesn't mean she gave up the computer altogether; she just went on Discovery Girls instead. She did not opt to play outside, but she may have read a bit more than usual.

  11. Houngbo_Hospice
    August 10, 2011


    I totally agree with you. We are spoiling our kids by exposing them to too much technology because we don't want them to be “disconned” from their peers. But do we really have a choice. For parents who are willing to buy an iPad to their children, let them read this article about 10 Reasons Not to Buy an iPad for Students.

  12. SunitaT
    August 11, 2011


    I, on the other hand, would like to think that maybe parents made their kids turn off their cellphones and video games and told them to do their homework or go outside and run around, as children used to do.


     I totally agree with your point. I firmly believe kids should be given limited access to cellphones, video games just to make sure that they don't become digital illiterate. Too much addiction to cellphones and video games kills kids creativity. I believe its the responsibility of the parents to make sure that kids dont get addicted to this technology.

  13. Adeniji Kayode
    August 11, 2011

    I actually feel that parents can take the advantage of kids' affinity for electronics and convert it to something good.

    I know a parent that does not allow his kid to watch television until he has done his home works and strictly until they are in holidays when the kid must have come home with desirable grades from school.

    What of if it is something for something- I mean parents promise to buy a choice electronic for the kid as a compensation for a good performance in school.

    I feel this may be a language the kids understand that after a job well done, reward should follow.

    On the other hand, denying them has it own consequences too.

  14. SunitaT
    August 11, 2011

    @Hospice_Houngbo, Good link. I believe following is the best of all the reasons that was mentioned :

    “It's Meant for the Enjoyment of One Person, Which Means Social Seclusion”

  15. Jennifer Baljko
    August 11, 2011

    Adeniji Kayode   “I actually feel that parents can take the advantage of kids' affinity for electronics and convert it to something good.”

    I feel the same way. Technology isn't evil, per se, and what's problematic is using technology as a 24×7 baby-sitter and not engaging the kids in a way that fosters interactive learning. When device use is balanced between educational and leisure time, technology can be an incredibly powerful tool for improving literacy, subject comprehension, and creative problem-solving. It may also level the playing field between the haves and have-not's by expanding access to knowledge to everyone, not just to a select few.

    Here are two examples I can draw from my own life that, for me, show the advantages of giving kids technology tools in educational settings.

    I've mentioned this on EBN before, I volunteer with a group called Worldreader, which makes e-readers available to children in the developing world where books and other educational materials are severly limited. Currently, we're piloting programs in Ghana and Kenya; because of the widespread acceptance of cell phones in these regions, the kids have quickly latched onto the e-readers. In the few months we've been in Ghana, we've seen kids improve their reading speed by 20%. Here's a video showing that improvement.

    This summer, I've also been scheduling Reading Time with a friend's 8-year-old. She's on the West Coast, and I'm in Europe. We download ebooks, and do a video Skype call to read the books together and discuss what's happening. If she wasn't able to get the print book from the local library, she reads on the family's iPad. I read it on my computer (Yes, I've been holding off on buying another device until I see how the e-reader and tablet markets shake out this year). Without digital connectivity to cut the space and time distance, this would be a hard thing to pull off.

    So, yeah, I guess it comes down to the responsible use of technology. Parents, teachers and other influencing adults need to show children where some boundaries may be, albeit floating boundaries that move as kids get older. Of course that means that they would have to put down their own iPhones for 5 minutes and actually do that. But, I digress.

  16. Adeniji Kayode
    August 11, 2011

    Thanks Jennifer and good job too. I ,m happy to know that you are really solving problems in reading culture of African  some how,I need you to know that this is really becoming a great challenge in Africa right now and i,m looking forward to you spreading over Africa,extend to Nigeria solving this problem.

    Once again, thanks.

  17. jbond
    August 11, 2011


    Just clicked on the link to the article, and I agree with all of the top 10. Students who need computers for their work, which is all of them, need a laptop or bare minimum a desktop and good note taking skills. The Ipad goes the same for students as it does business professionals; it's more of a toy/personal entertainment than a productive work tool.


  18. Tim Votapka
    August 11, 2011

    Jennifer – Good info and not too surprising. I can offer an anecdote to validate the research. My 14-year-old son has an iPod Touch game called Fruit Ninja. This is an amusing little game in which you slash away at a variety of fruit being lofted about on screen. It's a challenge to the thumbs to be sure. Now, we're big on getting out and being active, so I pushed my son to put the game aside and get some exercise. Without missing a beat he stood up, went over to his xBox Kinect device and set up his newest game on that console – Fruit Ninja. Well, at least he was on his feet with and he was getting a good work out.

    Point is – we may have brought the digital world into existence, but the kids are the ones who are driving in the fast lane.

  19. saranyatil
    August 15, 2011

    In a few days Kids will start start designing and inventing new games themselves and also devices with so much space and gadgets given to them i feel they definitely come up with some interesting stuff. Parents are directly creating an impact for this innovation in a way.

  20. Jennifer Baljko
    August 15, 2011

    Tvotapka  – That's just too funny ( or sad… I'm not sure which)… his idea of playing a video game standing up is both incredibly clever and completely missing the point. Either way it definitely made me chuckle.

  21. Tim Votapka
    August 15, 2011

    Definitely has inspired an interest in motion control and imaging. So now he's realizing that science and technology can be of interest to a sports-minded individual. So not all's been lost to the Fruit Ninja!

  22. Adeniji Kayode
    August 16, 2011

    I agree with you saranyatil, have you noticed that there has always been a slight difference in generational differences in the area of exposure,inventions and these leads to differences in smartness even in kids

  23. saranyatil
    August 16, 2011


    As you rightly mentioned because of the new generations, we can find loads of young people are on big roles. There are many companies having very young CEO's.

  24. Adeniji Kayode
    August 17, 2011

    @ sarantatil,you gave a good example and this is reallly going to continue, we will continue to experience smarter generation than the previous one due to level of technology and inventionsas years roll by

  25. saranyatil
    August 18, 2011


    Exactly lets wait and see the rapid changes.

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