Kid‚Äôs Smartphone may be a Drain on Parents’ Wallet

Jun 18

You think telemarketers are a pain?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  A phone with a screen, or a “viable marketing space” as described by a research analyst at Parks Associates, is an advertiser’s dream. 


Companies plan to forge ahead with mobile ads despite the fact that many consumers resent the bombardment of advertising on their personal phones.  Past research by Parks Associates indicated that almost 40% of respondents do not want advertising on their phones – almost equal to the number of people who are ambivalent about it. 


Mobile ads are welcomed among younger age groups.


But parents‚ĶListen up.¬† Mobile ads are welcomed among younger age groups. ¬†Teens, in particular, are more accepting of advertising on their phones.¬† It‚Äôs not surprising, given that teenagers feel a need to conform to the standards set by their peers.¬† “That‚Äôs NOT Abercrombie & Fitch?¬†” Increasingly, those standards espoused by peers are further solidified by marketers whose profits can soar if they convince their young consumers that their product is the path to popularity (usually the more expensive the brand, the more desire to have it.)¬†


Today’s mobile advertising revenue in the US and Canada is at $208 million.  According to new research, that dollar figure will hit $1.5 billion by 2013.


Is your teen or tween begging for the newest smartphone?  There’s a lot of pressure to own one with all the funky advertising aimed at them.  Just keep in mind – the cost of that phone may just be the first expense of many.  Something to think about…

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Bracelet Gives Sound Advice: Don’t Do Drugs

Mar 18

“Everybody does it.”¬† The statement is a mantra among high school kids, for whom the label of “being different” can mean a one-way ticket to loserdom.¬† It’s the defence for the slacker who wants company when he’s skipping class.¬† It’s the¬†girls waving off with indifference why they shoplift jewellery.¬† Or it’s a little nudge among buddies to push the one sober kid to smoke his first joint.¬†

This peer-on-peer power of persuasion is what parents want to combat when they tell their kids to stay away from drugs.¬† Lucky for them, they have mammoth advertising crusaders to help them achieve their anti-drug message.¬† While I was in high school in the 1980′s, the campaign to ‚ÄòJust Say No’ was introduced to curb the growing use of recreational drugs among kids.¬† As I recall, drug use was not as rampant then as it is now, and I had no trouble staying away from the stuff.¬† But then, I was never one to buckle under peer pressure, either.¬† My parents spoke openly about every vice known to humankind and did a fine job of scaring the heck out of me and my siblings if we were ever caught doing any of them.¬†

When I was about 15, my father offered some sage advice: “Don’t try them, because you might like them.”¬† Somehow that statement resonated with me.¬† I never forgot it, and I steered clear of pot, even as friends took up the habit.¬† If that same advice came from a glossy poster rather than my dad, I would have likely ignored it.¬† While the ‚ÄòJust Say No’ campaign was a valiant effort that may have had a mild effect on teen drug use, it was also great fodder for parody and practical jokes.¬† All you had to do was step into the local ‚ÄòIt Store’ to find a “Say no to crack” poster that featured a vertical inch of¬†plumber butt¬†creeping out of a pair of drooping pants.¬†

The latest anti-drug campaign to hit the high school market is by the Sound Advice Project.¬† It features a bracelet uniquely designed by the parent.¬† Here’s how it works:¬† the parent visits their web site and records a statement to remind her child to stay away from drugs (in the commercial the mother says “I believe in you.”)¬† A bracelet is then created in a design that mimics the shape of the sound wave.¬†


It’s a unique idea.¬† The strength of this campaign, however, is its emphasis on the importance of communication between parent and¬†teen, as the¬†commercial states “kids whose parents talk to them about drugs are up to 50% less likely to use drugs.”¬† The bracelet idea, while very sentimental, is a touch gimmicky.¬† Will a teenager actually wear a brightly coloured bracelet designed by their parents for the explicit purpose of telling them that they don’t want them to do drugs?¬† That’s hard to know.¬† Sure, kids value their parents’ beliefs and advice, but how many would be willing to announce their loyalty so openly?¬† Isn’t that kind of, well, dweebish?¬†¬†

The latest statistics in drug use show the tide is turning among teens.  According to Statistics Canada, usage almost doubled from 1994 to 2004 among every age group except 15-17 year olds (and those aged 65 years and older).  Among the 15 to 17 year old group, a third of them reported having used marijuana or hashish in the previous year(2003).  More current research that tracked cannabis use between 2002 and 2006 in 31 countries across (mostly) Europe and North America indicates that drug use is now actually declining among teens. 

Canada, the country with the highest rate of drug use among teens, at 30% of boys and 28% of girls, also showed the largest drop in usage.  It was down 13 percent among boys (from 2002) and almost 10 percent among girls.

Are all the advertising campaigns to fight drugs finally paying off, then?¬† Perhaps they’re helping.¬† But the research indicates the driving force in the decline has more to do with changing social habits than anything else.¬† The study found the “more frequently adolescents reported going out with their friends in the evenings, the more likely they were to report using cannabis…. Across countries, changes in the frequency of evenings spent out were strongly linked to changes in cannabis use.”¬† That is, as kids cling more and more to their online tools to communicate (email, mobile phones, social networking sites), they are cutting back on face-to-face time.¬† Less hanging out, less opportunity to light one up with the buddies.¬† Perhaps the next great campaign to end all anti-drug campaigns should just hand out cell phones and tell parents to keep their kids at home.¬† There’s got to be a better way than that, but the latest research offers two simple, yet powerful tools to help parents keep their kids away from drugs.¬† Talk to them about it (or even better – about everything) and keep them busy enough that they don’t have the¬†time or desire to spend hours just hanging out with friends every other night of the week.¬†


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Youth Culture Going Digital

Dec 05

“Mom, can I play computer?”¬† It’s a plea iterated in thousands of North American households every day.¬† How parents answer this question is as varied as the children themselves – from strict time limits to a free-for-all.¬† Yet as children morph into teenagers, parental control over the internet wanes, barriers evaporate, and the digital world becomes more streamlined into the everyday lives of young adults.¬† Like it or not, new media is as ubiquitous in today’s youth culture as rock ‚Äòn’ roll was to the Boomer’s.¬†

A recent study on youth and media by the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley (considered America’s most extensive study ever) advises parents to embrace, rather than resent, the increasing role that the internet plays in their children’s lives.¬†

The researchers identify two distinct ways that youths use the internet: friendship-driven and interest-driven.¬† The former is the more popular reason for going online, motivated by teens’ desire to “hang out” with their buddies.¬† Through social networks like My Space and Facebook, text messaging, playing video games with friends, and surfing online together, they do what young people have done for generations before them – talk gossip, music, movies, and anything else deemed too cool for adults.¬† In this context, adults who try to open the door and peer in can expect a “Do Not Enter” sign.¬† And, given the growing use of hand-held digital devices, a diminished influence on teenagers’ use of such technology is certain.¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†

Behaviour of young people is¬†evolving at a slower rate than technology because of resilient social and cultural structures of youth’s everyday lives.

Naturally, many parents are apprehensive about the negative effects of the internet on their children given their inability to monitor possible exposure to a digital world rife with violence and sex – not to mention, plain bad advice.¬† Add to that the concern that screen time is replacing other valuable pastimes, such as playing sports, enjoying the outdoors, and reading books.¬† These fears, however warranted, are not addressed in the study.¬† The researchers admit, however, that the behaviour of young people is not keeping pace with the rapid technological change.¬† That is, they are evolving at a much slower rate because of “resilient social and cultural structures that youth inhabit in diverse ways in their everyday lives.”

Youths are far less motivated to go online for interest-driven purposes.¬† Not surprisingly, parents are more comfortable with kids using the internet for academic or personal research than for posting videos from their latest party on YouTube.¬† Furthermore, kids tend to lift the “no adults” rule when they are online for this purpose – although they are still more motivated to learn from peers than older folks.¬† That may be because youths are more likely to seek expertise on new media technologies, such as video editing and online gaming, than more traditional subjects.¬† In other words, if young Sally wants to be a brain surgeon, she’ll be spending more time buried in books than staring at a screen.¬†

The study lauds the internet for encouraging “self-directed learning” among young people today – unlike a traditional classroom setting where goals are set by teachers.¬† As digital technology evolves, researchers suggest educators and parents can have a growing influence in how youths navigate the digital world by exploring ways to incorporate their own knowledge and expertise into this burgeoning technology.¬†

Authors of the California study warn parents that “technical barriers, or time limits on use are blunt instruments” that are perceived by youth as “raw and ill-informed exercises of power.”¬† That teenagers want more power to do as they wish is nothing new, and the researchers clearly show their lack of knowledge about raising a family within which structure and rules are paramount to ensuring children grow up healthy, safe, and well-equipped for adulthood.¬† Yet, the study makes a strong argument for parents to accept that online time provides their children with skills essential for thriving in our digital society.

As the role of technology gains importance in our lives, instilling age-old qualities, such as critical thinking, conscientiousness, and desire to learn are still as necessary as ever – if not more so.¬† And thankfully, they are taught the good old fashioned way – through human interaction.¬† Chances are, if you’re teaching these values to your kids, the computer will be an essential and useful vehicle in their life journey… but not the compass.

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