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Kids Add Gadgets to Backpacks

  |  August 13, 2004   |  Comments

School supplies now include high-tech devices, such as cell phone and computers, with parents picking up the tab.

Despite limitations in the classroom, teenagers are adding a spectrum of consumer electronics to their back-to-school lists. InsightExpress's back-to-school August 2004 survey of 312 teenagers took a look at the most popular gadgets for the age group, and how the kids got parents to pay for them.

Doug Adams, director of marketing, InsightExpress, says that the survey was inspired by the second highest revenue generating time of year for retailers. "As marketers, we were curious about who was making the buying decisions," said Adams, referring to back-to-school shopping.

Consumer electronics were fifth on the list of back-to-school items compiled by The NPD Group. Of the more than 22,000 poll participants, 86 percent said they would spend money on school supplies, 71 percent said they would buy apparel, 58 percent intend to purchase footwear, 46 percent planned to buy school bags and backpacks, and 45 percent of consumers intend to purchase consumer electronics such as computers, cell phones and calculators.

More than half (almost 56 percent) of the InsightExpress respondents said that they wanted a new computer before returning to school because it would make school life easier, or they would get better grades, or the school required it. However, when teenagers were asked what purposes their computers served, entertainment-related activities took precedence over academic.

Purposes for Computer
Communicating with friends 86%
Playing games 85%
Generally surfing the Internet 78%
Conducting homework 69%
Reading/learning 48%
Keeping up with current events 48%
Other 10%
Source: InsightExpress

InsightExpress found that parents primarily paid for nearly every electronic device owned by their teenagers, even when kids were in charge of the decision-making. The Walkman was the only item that teenagers paid for themselves, largely because it was among the lowest-priced items on the survey list.

Parents were highly involved in the brand decision-making process for cell phones, computers, Internet access, PDAs/Blackberrys, printers, software, digital cameras and digital video cameras. They had less input on calculators and MP3 players.

Who Decides to Buy?
Device Student
Decides
Student &
Parents Decide
Parents
Decide
MP3 player 56% 24% 14%
Digital camera 39% 26% 27%
Digital video camera 36% 31% 22%
Cell phone 35% 34% 22%
Computer 30% 27% 34%
Source: InsightExpress

"For a teenager, these things are their toys," said Adams.

"Peer pressure" is now compounded by "Net pressure," as teenagers report that friends and the Internet exert the strongest influences on consumer electronics purchases. Just 34 percent of the respondents said that they typically learned about new high tech devices from their parents, compared to more than twice as many who learned from friends (71 percent) and the Internet (70 percent). Nearly all (92 percent) of the respondents have a computer with Internet access (84 percent).

Adams explained that kids' exposure to products has multiplied. "It's gone from kids watching television, seeing commercials and demanding products to now they go on the Internet to find products are built in to the games. It's clever and integrated."

Adams is referring to "advergaming" which melds marketing with entertainment by building products and brands directly into online games. Acting as interactive commercials, advergames tap into the $172 billion per year that 8 to 21-year-olds freely spend.

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