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Internet, TV, Phone Vie for Kids' Attention

Getting the full attention of kids is harder than ever because today's children are multitaskers, according to a new study by Knowledge Networks/Statistical Research that spells out what else kids are doing while they watch TV.

According to the report, "How Children Use Media Technology 2003," part of the Home Technology Monitor research series, 72 percent of TV-viewing kids said they do other things while watching television, up from 64 percent in 2001. When a kid TV viewer has a personal computer in his or her bedroom, that figure jumps to 85 percent.

But they still seem to be watching commercials, on which advertisers spent $700 million in children's programming during the latest upfront.

"We didn't get into their reactions to that in great detail, but I think kids still pay attention" to spots, said Dave Tice, VP, client service, at Knowledge Networks. "My 6-year-old can recite to me chapter and verse every commercial he sees."

Ad sellers certainly believe kids are paying enough attention to make commercials effective.

"I question any research that says they're not paying attention," said Jim Perry, senior VP, national ad sales, at Nickelodeon. "It's our philosophy that the proper creative, advertised in the right environment on television, is far and away the best way to reach your audience."

One ad buyer said kids' behavior causes concern. Lisa Donohue, executive VP and media director at Starcom, said that because of multitasking and because of new technologies such as TiVo and video-on-demand, "We have to find a way for the creative to be more engaging, and we have to find a way for the marriage of the creative and the media placement to be more engaging so it resonates with them."

For the study, Knowledge Networks interviewed 245 randomly selected children ages 8 to 17 about their use of media and technology and their other leisure activities. Mr. Tice said the survey was designed to give networks and ad agencies a look at trends in children's media habits.

Today's kids are wired, the report said. Six in 10 surveyed have a TV set in their bedrooms; one in three has cable, a VCR or a video game in the bedroom. Three in 10 have a telephone, and one in six has a computer in his or her room.

When there's a TV set in a kid's room, interesting things happen.

"Kids who have TVs in their rooms, their TV habits are a lot different," Mr. Tice said. "Their parents aren't looking over their shoulders, and they're more likely to have convergent behavior."

These kids watch more television. When asked how much TV they had watched the previous day, children with a bedroom TV said they watched for 2.9 hours on average, compared with 2.1 hours for those without bedroom sets. Kids with bedroom sets were far more likely to visit a Web site they learned about in a TV commercial-43 percent per week-compared with those without-24 percent. They were also more likely to check the Web to learn more about a TV program. But overall, the survey found that relatively few kids visited Web sites related to a program. In fact, one-third said they never go to program Web sites.

The Internet and TV finished in a dead heat among the children interviewed when they were asked to choose a single medium. In terms of usage, however, TV, radio and pre-recorded music were reported as being more frequently used than the Internet. As a matter of fact, interest in the Web and frequency of Internet use have not significantly changed since the 2001 survey, indicating a plateau may have been reached.

TV remains very attractive to younger viewers. Asked how many hours of television they watched yesterday, kids in the new survey said about 2.5 hours, compared with 2.2 hours in the 2001 survey.

"There's no crisis where kids are fleeing the television," Mr. Tice said. "The Internet and TV are co-existing at about the same level."

Kids also watch television more often than they use other media. In the new survey, 62 percent of the children surveyed said they use TV daily, up from 52 percent in comparable surveys conducted in both 2001 and 2000.

Radio was used daily by 42 percent of kids (down from 52 percent in 2001), and pre-recorded music was used daily by 23 percent (down from 31 percent. The percentage of children using the Internet daily remained constant at 16 percent.

According to the survey, kids said their favorite programs included Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants," Fox's "The Simpsons" and Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire." Among teens, the top shows were "The Simpsons," MTV's "TRL" and NBC's "Friends." Younger children ages 8 to 12 liked "SpongeBob," "Lizzie McGuire" and The WB's "Yu-Gi-Oh!"

The most popular networks were Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and MTV.

Posted on aef.com: October 10, 2003


Jon Lafayette, Television Week. October 6, 2003

Copyright © 2003 by Crain Communications. All rights reserved.