RESEARCH: Blurring Media Boundaries – What Brings Kids and Adults Together?

Posted on: Friday 08 July 2011 10:55am


Francesca Morosi searches for her inner child….

RESEARCH: Blurring Media Boundaries – What Brings Kids and Adults Together?

Introduced by:Btisam Belola, Insight and Innovation Consultant, Brew CollectiveSpeakers:Charlotte Butterworth, Group Managing Director – Qualitative, SPA Future ThinkingCatherine Hunter, Research Director , SPA Future ThinkingKirsty Koch, Associate Director, Spa Future Thinking

A very insightful session, about a small-sample study (18 kids and 18 parents) mainly using focus groups and interviewing families with tweens (7-12 years old).

It’s a small scale study but the findings nevertheless shed light on how parents and “tweens” shared media experiences This included how they share, what do they share, what are the means of sharing etc. There are also some useful ideas and “must have” ingredients for suitable productions to be shared within the family.

There is an ever increasing sense that kids’ and adults’ media consumption is converging with more content being shared or crossing adult/child boundaries. Of course, there is also a lot of new media, new gadgets and new ways of sharing media online and offline – mobile phones, online tv, gaming, publishing, music, and ipod/touch, which facilitate this trend.

The main questions and topics investigated by this research were:

What’s it like to be a kid and an adult?  Both kids and adults agreed that it’s better to be a kid (oh, really? I wonder why…) It was seen as much more fun, with not many responsibilities and the adults seemed to show a real desire for opportunities to allow them to tap into their younger selves while providing kids with the opportunity to play safely.

Kids participating in an adult world: there are a number of points of contact with an adult world which kids are tapping into alone. Kids love stories which look realistic, which they can relate to, and they love to explore different sources.

But there are also things which they feel embarrassed to watch with parents, so in this particular instances they‘d like to be allowed to watch content on their own.

We watched kids and families in some video interviews: The research found that parents have got a high level of trust in their kids, and in this age group kids seems to be very sensible and respect the rules (they are actually policing themselves). There is a clear feeling amongst parents and acknowledgement among kids that the window of opportunity for sharing family activities is short at this age.

What do parents and tweens do together?  Watching family TV shows together emerges as the most frequent cross-over point between adults  and tweens, however gaming is key in family entertainment and highly valued as an occasion. TV and gaming are therefore seen as the core shared activities. In a second group of secondary shared activity are mobile phone and (quite sadly perhaps) the study found less shared interest in books at this age.

Who does it best? (The favourite to share)

Horrible Histories, Glee, The Apprentice,  X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Modern Family, Total Wipeout (this emerged as the favourite: of course we all know how kids love to watch adults being made a fool of!), Sarah Jane Adventures (suspence and fear). The Live action kind of show (such as Total Wipe Out for instance) is generally most favoured as family viewing (not too silly for adults and feels more grow-ups for kids).

And in the gaming side:

Wii Games in general , Wii Sport and Wii fitness take first place (kids enjoy the fair play and competition, and being able to beat the parents); other favourite games were Wii Just Dance (where everyone is the same and family members can cross age boundaries) and …Angry Birds.

What about exploring new ideas, especially from kids?

  • Kids want to be on screen, they’d like to create their character and they’d like to customise content. Example: family members creating their own characters and then creating a storyline; in a video interview one family talked about a resource allowing them to do this with Doctor Who, where kids can attach their own faces.
  • A family live talent show where every member is showing a particular skill or talent
  • Kids want interactive stuff (the word “interactive”keeps coming back again and again)
  • A mystery based program about a pop star

So TV and gaming emerged as the most suitable platform for parents and tweens to share, however what are the content key ingredients to succeed in fully bringing the family together?

  • Humour
  • Generate banter
  • Avoid rude/ embarrassing moments
  • Character ownership
  • Fair competition
  • Reflect real life
  • Varied personalities
  • Realistic imaginary
  • Allow self-expression

…and of course for the adults, what we always like to have once in a while…

   an opportunity to be like children once more!