Grown-ups have never really known how to communicate with young people.
TV, cinema and the dangers posed by novels all link in this chain of moral panic to today’s fears about the internet.
But moral panic about children has been a constant through every generation.
Today, it is the internet and 30 years ago it was television.
Go back further and you’ll find the moral panic about the corrupting influence of novels on Victorian children and the generation of Englishmen who remember the Spanish Armada appalled at how weak children were now they no longer slept on logs.
The challenge to the communicator in 2019 is to understand how young people are consuming the media and know that the secret sauce will quickly evolve in to something different.
How do children use the media?
Danah Boyd in her book ‘It’s Complicated: the Lives of Networked Teens’ discovered that children were using instant messaging to friends in the same way that the older generation once took the landline into the hall to have a private chat.
“By and large the kids are alright, she wrote. “They just want to be understood.”
Secrecy and a separate universe explains precisely why Snapchat is successful with teenagers. Because if their parents knew how to use the app and be their friend, those children would die of embarrassment.
There is a gap in the knowledge of many comms people over under 16s.
This gap in the vocabulary means that Ofcom’s newly published ‘Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes’ report is a welcome addition.
Here are 10 points its worth knowing
Children prefer watching YouTube to watching television.
The report says that 49 per cent prefer the platform over TV. Almost half of three and four-year-olds have watched YouTube with 89 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds.
Vloggers are an important source of information
The vlogger who brought Birmingham city centre to a standstill through a personal appearance was a mystery to the Daily Mail. He isn’t to young people and nor is vlogging an unusual way to find out opinions.
We are raising a generation of filmmakers
The idea of making films in the 1970s would have been a pipe dream. There was no chance of my own parents buying a cine camera and a video camera was only bought long after I left home.
But to children in 2019, making a video is a popular online activity. Almost half of 12 to 15-year-olds go online to make a film and one in 10 three and four-year-olds do so.
The conclusion is clear. That video is a medium of choice for young people in how they share their views and for creativity.
Young people are spending half a day a week online gaming
Young people are online gaming with almost 14 hours a week spent in the activity online. That’s no surprise to a parent of a 14-year-old boy for who playing Fortnite with friends has been a key obsession. Children are also using the social chat features of playing online with 58 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds using the feature.
Social media is key to young people
For young people, social media plays a key role in how they keep in touch with their friends. A round 70 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds and 20 per cent of eight to 11-year-olds have a social profile.
Popular channels for 12-to-15-year olds who use social media
Facebook 72 per cent
Instagram 65 per cent
WhatsApp 43 per cent
Children have both a positive and negative experience of social media
The tabloid view that social media only brings a negative experience to young people is incorrect, based on the Ofcom research data. There are pluses and minuses.
90 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds say that people are ‘mean’on social media sometimes.
90 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds say that social media makes them feel closer to friends.
Sixteen per cent of eight to 11-year-olds have experienced something unpleasant online while the figure rises for 31 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds.
Media consumption by age group
Childhood is a very fractured thing. Roger Daltrey The Who lead singer wrote about how before the 1960s you were a child in shorts until you started work when you left school. The experience of being a child was uniform.
However, the experience of children in 2019 is different depending on how old you are.
This throws down serious challenges to a communicator whose own childhood memories give no help to the way that today’s children are communicating.
Using the data
Having national data at your finger tips is a useful way to start the ball rolling. But if you are serious about reaching young people in your area you need to carry out your own research. Work with people who work with young people to understand what channels people are using in your area.
Research shows that Facebook is the most popular channel for young people. But time after time this isn’t reflected by 13-year-olds flocking to the corporate account.
You need to spend time working out which platform to use and also how to craft content.
How to use communicate with young people is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.