Ah, childhood. Often portrayed as a time of simple carefree innocence, today’s kids are being equipped to thrive in a more complex, global world.  From this global survey, we see that kids are not only highly engaged in life, but are masters of technology.  They hold “success-oriented values.”  Kids are also encouraged by their parents to develop their own opinions and exert influence.  This dynamic is especially strong in developing countries.

Kids Are Busy

Gone are the laissez-faire days of childhood.  Today’s kids are active.  When shown a list of 30 activities — ranging from reading to camping to sports and crafts — on average, global kids reported participating in 25 of them.

It’s not just the number of activities.  It’s also the fact that some of their favorite activities can be time-consuming.  For example, global kids spend an average of almost 8 hours a week on the computer.  And, among those participating in organized sports, there’s the time commitment that goes with practices, games and tournaments.

Some kids are now busy to the point where they are longing for more unstructured play time.  In fact, 92% of global kids say “I wish I had more free time to play.”

Global Kids Are Connected To and Care About the Larger World

Overall, global kids are embracing technology at high rates, using electronic entertainment and communication devices from digital cameras to newer products such as smart phones.

% of online kids (6-12) who have used electronic devices

Total Global Kids
Digital camera 93%
Handheld video game 84%
Smart phone 63%


And, kids are using them for a wide range of activities.  On their computers, activities range from “watching video clips” (83%) to doing homework (76%) to researching products (54%).  Mobile phones are used for taking pictures (88%), listening to music (73%) and recording videos (60%).  However, it’s important to note that “playing games” tops the list of popular activities.  In fact, it’s #1 for global kids on the computer and #3 on mobile phones.

Embracing technology has opened kids to a world of unlimited possibilities.  It has also made them more caring about the larger world. According to their moms, most global kids (69%) know “a lot” about what’s happening in the world.  And this world view is reflected in their wishes for the future.  When kids are asked what they’d do if they had the power to change three things in the world, few focused on their narrower, more egocentric experiences  like improving school lunch menus, more TV time or no set bedtime.  Instead, kids largely wished to change things having to do with big issues like the environment, economy, and social civility. Here’s a sampling of responses:

“Get rid of nuclear power generation.”
–Boy, 9 years, Japan

That the unemployment in my country would end.”
–Girl, 9 years, Spain

“Find a cure for cancer.”
–Girl, 11 years, UK

“Have freedom for all and world peace.”
–Boy, 8 years, Brazil

“We would stop global warming.”
–Girl, 10 years, Poland

That we could walk alone without it being dangerous.
–Boy, 11 years, Mexico


Global Kids Are Being Encouraged to Develop and Voice Their Own Opinions

In the U.S., children’s influence has grown steadily over the past decade and there’s been a significant focus on teaching kids “to make good choices.”  However, based on the global survey, we see that this not just a U.S. phenomenon. It’s worldwide.

Most moms want their kids to have opinions and to share them.  For example, 94% of Global Kids’ moms say that “It’s easier to shop when I know what my children like.” Almost as many (86%) agree that “I would like my children to tell me what products they would like.”

Accordingly, Global Kids Are Allowed to Exert a Lot of Influence On Shopping

Almost 73% of Global kids’ moms say, “My kids often help me choose what to buy.” Part of this reflects that most moms regularly take their children grocery shopping with them. But their influence extends far beyond juice boxes and breakfast cereals.  Today’s kids exert a lot of influence across many different categories. At the top of the list are items for themselves (e.g, toys, videogames and clothes).  Nearly all kids help choose these items and 20-30% of them act as the sole decision-maker.  But, they also influence many family decisions such as “choosing a fast food restaurant” and “family vacations.”

Kids in Developing Countries May Be Even Better Equipped to Take On The World

In taking a look at differences around the globe, we see that western nations are not leading the way.  Rather, kids in the developing countries appear to be the vanguards, particularly in countries like China, Brazil, Mexico and Poland.

One of the key differences is that kids in developing countries are more technology savvy and better equipped. See cell phones, for example:


Interestingly, developing countries also encourage their kids to own mobile phones from a very young age. By six years of age, at least 25% of kids in developing countries own a mobile phone (versus an average of 8% across the other countries).

We also see kids in developing countries using computers more frequently and for a wider range of activities (e.g., “chat,” “make video calls,” “watch films” and “write/read emails”).

Kids in Developing Countries Are More Globally Aware

According to their moms, kids in developing countries (with the exception of Poland) appear to be a little more in touch with the larger world.  For example, they are more likely to agree with the notion that “My child knows a lot about what’s happening in the world today,” and feel that “children are growing up too fast.”


% of global kids’ moms who agree with statement



Furthermore, kids in developing countries are more likely to hold values often associated with “a drive for success.” Kids in all of these countries also value “traveling around the world,” more than those in non-developing countries.

In addition…

–       Polish kids want to “be rich” and “become famous”

–       Mexican kids want to “be smart”

–       Brazilian kids are driven to “get a good education”

–       Chinese kids want to “be part of the popular crowd” and “have a special talent”

Moms in Developing Countries Tend to Encourage Kid Influence More

According to moms in some of the developing countries, they are more likely to let their children help them choose what to buy.   And, when we actually look at what kids tell us about their shopping dynamics, it appears to be true.

With the exception of Poland, kids in developing countries are more likely to be empowered to make their own choices across many categories.  In other words, they are the sole decision-maker.  This is especially true in China.  A few of these categories are shown below.

% kids say “I choose”

Total Global Kids Poland Mexico Brazil China
Toys 47% 43% 65% 51% 67%
Computer/video games 31% 27% 40% 41% 33%
My mobile phone 19% 17% 33% 24% 33%


Furthermore, kids in developing countries have more of their own money to spend.  The biggest difference is for China, where kids receive almost twice as much money for their weekly allowance ($9.30  versus $5.80).


Marketing to this generation in developing countries will require increased discipline and expertise.  An “anything goes,” less sophisticated approach will not work for these kids who are worldly, technologically savvy, critical to many purchase decisions, and have money of their own to spend (a dream for many marketers).  In addition, parents (and soon stakeholders including government organizations, teachers, and nonprofits) require marketing to their children to be done responsibly. They will (and should) continue to push back on approaches that seem unfair, unsafe, or unnecessary.

Around the globe, kids are not only exposed to more things today, but they also participate in an unprecedented number of leisure and entertainment activities.  Brands must understand how they stack up in kids’ lives and in their minds and why they should even be considered.

World issues, like the economy, social issues, and the environment are not lost on today’s kids. Companies and brands that show how they are solutions to some of these issues can win the hearts and minds of these kids and potentially provide additional social cache.  However, given kids’ exposure to the world, these efforts and sponsorships must be authentic and consistent with other company or brand actions.

There is a broader family buying machine to consider when marketing products and services that are consumed by a member (or members) of a family.  Not only does this affect the audience that marketers should be talking to, and when, but also the messages that are conveyed as family members have distinct considerations, motivations, and barriers.

Leaving kids out when thinking about how purchase decisions are made in the household is ill-advised, even in categories that might seem within the parents’ domain.  More than ever, parents around the globe (especially evident in developing countries) are tapping into their kids’ opinions to help make many of the household purchases.

  • Heather Gately
  • Colleen

    Causes have worked extremely well in my kid marketing experience. And your research makes sense. Connected kids worry about such grown-up topics as reactors and unemployment. I tended to guide kid clients to animal-based causes because children feel such a connection there. But maybe if I were in Spain today, I’d highlight jobs.

  • Team myBestHelper

    Very interesting insights. I do worry about the extent we parents in the developing world have bought into the belief system that access to technology is dangerous and needs to be controlled and limited.

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