Kids Are The Future of Social Media

by · August 1, 201217 comments

I’ve seen the future of social media and her name is Hannah.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to host the first-ever conference for tween and teen bloggers and their families, the Digital Family Summit.  However immodest this may seem, I truly feel this event was a watershed moment in social media.  It was clear from listening to and meeting the 125 kids in attendance that content creation permeates every fiber of their being.

My conference co-organizer, Jennie Baird, said this in our conference program:

Gone are the days of kids being spoon-fed adult-created content like Saturday morning cartoons and  “After School Specials.“  The idea of creating media is as natural to today’s tweens and teens as flipping on the radio or the television was to their parents. And today’s tweens and teens are creating new formats, new ideas, and a new breed of information and entertainment that is relevant and meaningful to them. Social media and mobile devices ensure that they (and us) are always connected and that the ideas and information shared spread like wildfire.

We created the conference because we know that we’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way media is created and consumed: 14% of teens are blogging and 27% record and upload video. The numbers grow rapidly each year.  And for parents, educators and brands, listening to and learning from these digital creators is becoming increasingly important.

Hannah at Digital Family SummitHannah Alper is just one such creator. Within a few days of the Digital Family Summit, this smart and articulate 9-year-old re-platformed her blog to self-hosted WordPress based on a single morning’s workshop.  At the Summit, she also honed her digital photography skills.  She’s multi-platform, multi-talented, and doesn’t stop creating.  She recently complained to her mom that she’s worried about missing things because she won’t be able to blog or check her comments from sleepaway camp.

Digital Family Summit teen speaker Xander Hansen has 740 subscribers and 3 million views on his YouTube channel and is an avid Twitter and Foursquare user. He’s putting money away for college from the revenue on his YouTube channel.  He started creating videos when friends asked for his help with Minecraft, and now shares video on everything from mini skateboards to Legos. Just watch one of his videos: it’s clear the confidence he’s building through his on-screen endeavors will serve him well no matter what direction he takes in life.

Kids like Hannah and Xander are not just growing up digital, they are digital. They don’t know anything else but creating and sharing, because those tools are readily available and built-in to every device they own. Where are these digital kids headed and what should we know about them?

Facebook is So Last Year

While Facebook has a strong history of teen and college-age use, many teens are leaving Facebook or modifying their Facebook use as it’s become too public for them and they’re tired of sharing in the broad way that Facebook encourages. If their parents and aunts and friends’ parents are their friends, no amount of privacy settings will make them feel like they’re not being watched. And they’re realizing on their own that opening up their lives to every friend they’ve ever made might expose them to potential cyberbullying threats.

Twitter Comes on Strong

Many of the teens that are cutting down their Facebook use are finding refuge on Twitter, which offers a level of anonymity and privacy that Facebook does not. Now that one out of six teens uses Twitter, it’s become a serious platform for that demographic that marketers cannot afford to ignore. And since fewer parents are on Twitter than Facebook, Twitter is a refuge for many kids, even those younger than 13 (see next). The question is: How to reach them, if they’re anonymous and keeping their Twitter friends list small?

Those Kids Get Younger Every Year

Facebook is finding itself in a major dilemma as more and more parents allow kids younger than 13 (the age at which the COPPA act requires a parent’s permission in collecting data from a child) to set up a Facebook account (or the kids are doing it without their parents’ knowledge); in fact, studies show that 38% of kids on the network are under 13. Facebook is now considering allowing younger kids to have an official account, linked to their parents’ account, which would help to limit their increasing liability brought on by the growing number of underage users.

Kids are Hyper-Connected

With multiple devices, today’s teens and tweens have easy access to their social presences (and email and text) in a way that no generation has before. From waking up to lunchtime to lying in bed at night, many teens are online all the time and it’s completely natural for them.  Even my own four-year-old will ask Siri the weather long before he’ll open the door to look outside. But with ubiquity comes clutter – kids are processing so much information, they may not respond well to marketing messages or just ignore them altogether.

Video is Natural

While our generation wanted to watch MTV videos, this generation wants to create them. A recent Pew Internet study found that 37% of 12-17 year olds used video chat, and 27% of them record and upload video – girls as well as boys. Video is fast- becoming a primary way that kids communicate with each other and with the world. And the more socially-connected the kids are, the more likely they are to create and share video.

Hannah and Xander are only two of the millions of kid content creators who will be challenging us, teaching us, and yes, buying from us now and in the future.  They’re way ahead and thinking in ways most of us can’t (or don’t), so we’ve got a lot to figure out from them.

Have You Registered For Explore Minneapolis?

Don’t miss two days of intensive learning with some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the digital marketing and social media marketing space. Join SME’s Jason Falls and Nichole Kelly, The Now Revolution co-author Jay Baer, Edison Research’s Tom Webster, Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman, Scott Gulbransen, Kevin Hunt, Kipp Bodnar and more at one of the leading digital and social media marketing events of 2012, August 16-17 in Minneapolis, Minn. DON’T WAIT TO REGISTER! Seats are filling fast! Reserve yours today!

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About Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at CrackerjackMarketing.com, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • JactitationSpanner71
  • JactitationSpanner71
  • iancleary

    Hi Stephanie, a couple of guys in Ireland recently set up Coder Dojo which is a free coding club for kids.  They now have over 100 coder dojo’s running around the world every saturday.  There’s no cost to anyone and everybody just volunteers their time.  Kids are building websites, wordpress blogs and much more.  I wonder if developing apps becomes the new games for kids!!!  It’s fun to watch.  Ian

  • http://www.antonkoekemoer.com/ Anton Koekemoer

    Hi Stephanie,

    I do agree. The power of social media is undeniable, and when you look at all
    the ways not just the youth is benefiting from this revolutionary leap in
    social interaction of personal and business matters alike but the almost all
    areas of economics and education worldwide. Social Media and the amount of
    traffic and conversions that are driven by social media today along with the
    influence of these networks in consumer psychology – It’s undeniable. Social
    Media and online Social interaction is definitely an important part of running
    a business online and offline alike, not just today but for the future as well. 

  • http://twitter.com/DIYDROID Brandon Nolte

    What an eye opening article. I like to think that I have grown up with the internet, but as a 25 year old I’m old news by now. 

    I can’t imagine having the kinds of resources that kids have access to now. You can learn anything you want. Combine that with the amount of free time they have, and kids are starting to create really awesome things with technology.  

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  • http://paradisesocial.wordpress.com/ Mike Poynton

    This post actually gave me an adrenaline surge. My 5 year old is typing before she can write, practically. She wants here own YouTube channel. My iPhone is an extension of her anatomy. She’s mastered Instagram.

    The amazing disconnect between her generation and her grandparents (and even my Gen X/PostWar) is what really resonated for me. As a marketer with clients with customers in an array of demographics, I find myself having to dramatically shift gears with respect to the ways and means with which young and old interact (or don’t interact) with digital media. A digital Grand Canyon separates them.

  • http://paradisesocial.wordpress.com/ Mike Poynton

    P.S.: The link to Stephanie’s G+ profile leads back to this post. Might want to look into it.

  • http://twitter.com/FeliciaDewar Felicia

    Love this and love Hannah’s blog. My 10 year old son is also blogging, has been for the last year and is enjoying the ability to connect with kids across the country. I continually encourage this for a number of reasons but ultimately – he is constantly developing his writing, reading and researching skills, developing confidence in himself that his thoughts and ideas have value and merit. I also encourage him knowing that this will be standard practice in the future, especially within post-secondary and I want him to have a headstart – 10 years of blogging for him by then, he will be an old pro!

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  • Gayle

    yay hannah!

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  • http://twitter.com/KatFrench Kat French

    Great stuff, Stephanie, It hits particularly close to home for me, since my daughter (age 8) has been asking for her own website to show off her artwork for the past few weeks. When I was a kid, my parents had to temper encouraging my creativity with concerns about emphasizing the need to also cultivate a sustainable “day job” skill set. 

    Now, the technology skills associated with modern creative work almost adds that skillset by default, but we also have to add on a layer of teaching our kids about protecting their privacy, balancing a desire for attention with the understanding that they’re not defined by the number of pageviews they can generate (the modern day measurement of popularity, I guess), and a host of other concerns. 

    Congratulations on the conference. It may be the first of its kind, but I suspect it soon won’t be the only one of its kind. 

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