Kids care most about family and friends—not celebrity and riches.

The media would like you to believe everyone wants “fame and fortune,” but kids still appreciate the simple things in life.  “Family” and “friends” are at the top of their lists.  We see this in their attitudes, values, what makes them happy and even what kinds of prizes they like to win.  Interestingly, there are some indications that in some countries (such as the U.S.) where parental involvement has grown, kids are pushing back on “more family time.”

The most important values of today’s kids are family and friends.

When shown a list of 15 socially desirable values, the top 5 things global kids (6-12) chose as “most important” are:

#1. Being a happy family

#2. Having lots of friends

#3. Being a nice person

#4. Being smart

#5. Being rich

Across countries, these values are quite consistent.  The only value where the U.S. deviates from other nations is “Having lots of friends,” ranking #3, just behind “Being a nice person” (which is generally viewed as a precursor to friendship). And while “Being rich” makes the top 5, “Being famous” surprisingly places #12 (out of 15).

“Fun with family and friends” is also a powerful reward.

Kids love to participate in contests and win prizes.  So when global kids are asked to select their FAVORITE PRIZE  (from a series of options), the winners are:

–        #1:   “Free holiday for you, your friends and family”

–        #2:   “Money”

These are the top 2 favorite prizes across all countries, though in a few cases (4 out of 12)—money is either #1 or tied for first place.   In the U.S., “Money” is #1, driven by older kids’ (9-12) preference for it.

Prizes involving fame (i.e., “Meet a celebrity of your choice” or “Be in a TV show or advertisement”) were considered the least exciting of the prizes.

Not only are they valued, “friends and family” are the KEYS TO HAPPINESS.

When asked to name “3 things that make you happy,” kids mention a wide array of things.

“ Chocolate”  —girl, age 7, Mexico

“My pet bunny” —girl, age 10, Brazil

“Hugs from mommy” —girl, age 6, U.S.

“Getting birthday presents” —boy, age 9, Germany

Playing with my brothers in the park” —boy, age 11, Spain

“Taking a warm bath” —boy, age 6, Japan

As we look at all of the responses, major themes emerge: “family,” “friends,” “play,”  “toys,” “food” and “money/fame.”

3 Things That Global Kids Say Make Them Happy


In most cases, kids define “family” as their parents (especially moms) or siblings. But, grandparents and other extended family members are also mentioned.  The one exception is Japan, where kids are more likely to mention “Play” as the #1 source of happiness.  (In an upcoming essay, we will elaborate on Japanese kids.)


Fortunately, most kids are able to live out their values.

Despite the demographic changes and stresses experienced by many families—virtually all kids feel close to both their family and friends.

99% of global kids agree “I am very close with family.”

– 82% strongly agree

98% of global kids agree “I have very good friends.”

– 65% strongly agree

Looking at U.S. kids, these sentiments are also strong, with most kids feeling close to their family (99% agree) and friends (80% strongly agree).

And, it’s no wonder.  Most of their leisure activities are done with others.  In the global survey where kids are asked who they do a series of activities with, almost all are done with family or friends. Exactly with whom they did them differed somewhat around the globe. But, VERY FEW activities are done alone.

There appear to be signs that “family time” has gone too far—at least for some countries

In the U.S., it’s been widely documented that parents are spending more time with their kids. Accordingly, in the global survey, we see that many activities are actually done with parents—not just siblings. And, it’s not just “apprentice activities” like cooking or reading. It’s also activities like video games and sports.

Perhaps because of this high level of parental involvement, kids do not appear to be clamoring for “more family time.”

–        Only 15% of U.S. kids strongly agree, “I wish my parents spent more time with me.”

Furthermore, while the majority of leisure-time play is currently done with family members (almost twice as much as friends), when asked who they would rather play with:

–        59% chose “Friends”

–        41% chose “Family”

However, many moms don’t see eye-to-eye with the kids on this one.  Almost one-third of U.S. moms strongly agree, “I wish I had more time to spend with my kids.”

The U.K., Canada and Australia all show sentiments very similar to the U.S.

However, in other countries we see different patterns:

–        In several countries (France, Germany, Spain and especially China, Brazil, Mexico—both kids and moms are wanting to spend more time together. (The strongest sentiment is in China where 49% of kids and 50% of moms say they strongly want more family time.)

–        In Japan, kids strongly desire more family time (53%), though their moms don’t necessarily feel the same way (21%).

–        In Poland, neither kids or moms appear to be looking for more family time.


Implications for Brands: 

With a growing awareness of what’s happening around the globe, kids exert a high degree of influence. However, it’s important not to assume that kids have been jaded by their worldview. They are highly engaged and optimistic, and appreciate many of the simple things in life. Brands can best reflect this not only in how they portray their target but also in the benefits that a product or service can deliver.

It’s true that family plays an important part in kids’ lives, but they also value their friendships – a critical driver to kids’ happiness. So it’s important not to assume that family time together is always the desired state for kids. Brands must consider the role they play within kids’ (and even moms’) lives and how motivating it is to invite the broader family unit into the experience.

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