Media Usages of 9–12 Year-olds: The Age of Digital Independence

Written by Gaëlle Saules, Florence Roche, and Judith Beauregard.

Heading toward the tween stage of their lives, children aged 9 to 12 years reach a level of independence with respect to their media usages and entertainment choices.

More than half of all children aged 12 have a cell phone

Many children in this age group are emancipated by the acquisition of their first personal cell phone. According to a MediaSmarts report conducted in 2013 with young Canadians, by the age of 9 (Grade 4), one quarter of students have their own phone. Three years later, they are more than half (52%) to have one. These percentages exclude those youth who use a phone belonging to a relative or parent (31% at the age of 9).

Tweens are already massively present on social networks

Whereas parents provide their children with cell phones as a means of keeping in touch with them and following their whereabouts, for tweens, the device opens up onto a new world and allows them to gain access to information and stay in contact with their friends.

Despite the fact that social networks are officially reserved to users aged 13 years and up, many 9–12 year-olds already have a personal account on one of these networks. In the United Kingdom, Ofcom estimates that 10% of 9 year-olds are registered with at least one social network. This percentage climbs to 50% among 12 year-olds. Furthermore, according to a CBBC survey also conducted in the United Kingdom, 41% of all 10–12 year-olds have an Instagram account.

A majority of parents are worried about their children’s online safety

Parents continue to play a role by educating their children with respect to media and warning them of the risks of going online. According to an Ofcom study conducted in the United Kingdom, 90% of parents of children aged 8 to 11 have discussed online safety with their children. According to MediaSmarts, the main rules set down by parents with respect to online activities have to do with providing personal information, chatting online with strangers and visiting sites that are not appropriate for children.

Case study: Jenny

Jenny  is a multiplatform French-language drama series that caters to tweens. Launched by Unis TV in September 2017, it showcases Jenny, a young 13-year-old teen diagnosed with leukemia. We follow her through the different stages of her illness: diagnosis, hospitalization, chemotherapy, and remission.

Although the tween series deals with a sensitive subject, it is never too hard to watch and Jenny always manages to share a dose of optimism and joie de vivre with the viewers.

Jenny’s blog: 150 exclusive digital contents to complete the story behind the series

To meet the expectations of the young audience, Jenny’s story is told on multiple platforms and through different types of content. In the series, we learn that the teenager authors a blog on which she explains how her illness evolves on a daily basis. Jenny’s blog was created and enriched while the show aired by the addition of more than 150 exclusive contents of all sorts: vlogs, GIF files, story-format short videos, etc.

Jenny has a YouTube channel as well as Instagram and Snapchat accounts

To make the series even more real and create a greater proximity with the audience, Jenny has also come to life on social networks through a YouTube channel as well as Instagram and Snapchat accounts, where she addresses her fans daily.

The series’ young fans responded positively to the initiative and really began interacting with the character. Indeed, Jenny received many messages of support each day as well as questions on her state of health. Her blog was visited 20,000 times and her YouTube channel, 50,000 times.

Operation #defisourires: a hashtag to engage tweens

Operation Défi Sourires was launched in parallel to the fictional series. The goal of the series’ team is to engage youth in a worthwhile cause and convert the empathy they feel for Jenny into a genuine commitment toward sick children.

The public is invited to share a smile using the #defisourires hashtag on Jenny’s blog or on different social media platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram) to promote the initiative within their circle of friends. Each smile collected contributes to raising funds with partner donors on behalf of organizations that provide assistance to children suffering with cancer.

To launch the operation, three YouTubers who are popular with Quebec tweens (Amélie BarbeauGloria Bella, and Massi Mahiou) were chosen to carry out operation #defisourires.

The operation generated a real buzz throughout Quebec. Between September 2017 and January 2018, the operation reached more than 500,000 people and more than 30,000 smiles and as many dollars were raised for the benefit of Leucan and Fondation Mgr Arthur Deschênes.

Gaëlle Saules
Gaëlle Saules is a multi-platform digital specialist, with strong experience in channel development and digital content distribution acquired while working at France Télévision Distribution. She now works for Tobo where she's developping usage and discoverability strategies. She has worked on projects such as Jenny (Avenida, Unis) and with clients such as Radio-Canada or Bayard.
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