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'Edutainment' for today's 'i-volved Screen-agers'

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media | March 25, 2011
A discussion that lingered on in the FICCI hallways for hours after its completion, 'Beyond TV- Children's Media Consumption Habits - Where are we headed' addressed issues surrounding the reality that today, kids are an intelligent, 'i-volved' species, adept at tackling content available on the numerous screens in their lives.

One of the first sessions of Day Two of FICCI Frames 2011 was about the content that today's intelligent and influential children are consuming across the multiple screens they're exposed to, including television, the internet and mobile.

The panel comprised Mark Eyers, chief content officer, Turner Broadcasting System Asia-Pacific, Rohit Sharma, chief executive officer, digital business, Reliance Entertainment, Nitish Mittersain, chief executive officer, Nazara Technologies, Dr Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Hinduja Hospital, Sameer Suneja, managing director, Perfetti Van Melle India, Kartik Sharma, general manager, west, Maxus, and Ralph Simon, board member, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment. Ashish Kulkarni, chief executive officer, Big Animation, moderated the session.

Facts and Figures

The session began with some hardcore facts and figures, courtesy Cartoon Network's 'New Generations 2011'-- a research study on Indian kids' lifestyle and the evolution (over the last 10 years) in terms of their attitudes, behaviours and preferences. The focus of the study was kids in the age group of 7-14 years, belonging to SEC ABC, based in 19 cities, across four states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra). The study also included face-to-face interviews with the parents of kids in the 4-6 years age band.

Duncan Morris, vice-president, research and market development, Turner International Asia-Pacific shared some eye-opening statistics. It was found that 79 per cent of the respondents are mobile phone users, and 92 per cent of kids have mobile phones in their homes, compared to a mere 17 per cent a decade ago. Also, the research revealed that the number of kids with computers at home has increased from 6 per cent in 2001, to 22 per cent in 2011. Moreover, while a meagre 2 per cent of the homes surveyed had DVD players in 2001, today, the same figure is a whopping 61 per cent.

Additional findings showed that kids in India are more likely to interact with computers and online content than their parents. Specifically, the data revealed the following: amongst internet users, 22 per cent of kids access the internet daily and 67 per cent of kids play online games, followed by 51 per cent of kids listening to or downloading music. While 45 per cent of kids go online to search for information, 26 per cent do so for emailing purposes, 23 per cent for homework and 19 per cent for social networking.

Jargon of the session being 'i-volution', the study shed light on how kids today are a highly 'i-volved' breed, thanks to all the internet exposure amidst other technology. Duncan shared, "The study showed that today kids are more influential, intelligent and informed than they were a decade back." He added that TAM data showed that Indian kids' love for the television has remained stable over the years; in fact, a slight increase over the years was noted.

The average amount of time an Indian kid spends watching television is around two hours and 18 minutes a day, said the data. "Internet usage," Duncan continued, "has grown, but still has a long way to go in terms of growth." Further, it was found that beyond television, the usage of second and third screens in homes (internet, mobile) is additive - that is, it does not serve to replace television usage in any way.

Era of Online Gaming

Sharma then began the discussion with, "As the digital space proliferates in the country, it poses both a challenge as well as an opportunity for traditional media." Regarding online gaming, he added, "It's a stress buster for kids, especially those without siblings and with limited outdoor place to play. Mumbai is an apt example."

Parents, he informed, didn't regard online gaming as taboo any longer as, in their opinion, it instils in their kids a healthy spirit of competitiveness. In fact, even marketers and brand consultants are using this medium to address/target kids. Thus, the medium needs to be appropriately customised by content owners.

Nazara's Mittersain shared some facts found by his team. "Today, we get around 150-200 game downloads per day; of these, 25 per cent are downloaded by kids aged 7-14 years, or by their parents (for the kids)." Thus began the discussion on 'edutainment' in the online space. Much to the delight of those present, Simon said that the multiple screens that are a part of kids' reality today, give them 'i-gasm' and 'ear-gasms' (maximum exposure to various kinds of content).

This content, pitched Sharma, though available in abundance, needs to be localised. Suneja said, "Kids' ability to gravitate towards good content is far better than that of adults. However, the content needs to be marketed properly and a lot of education on the matter is required for the marketing fraternity in India."

Psychological Hazards Facing 'Screen-agers'

Psychiatrist Dr Chavda amazed the audience by sharing the possible adverse effects of the media. Overuse and over-exposure is linked to attention deficit disorders, a condition called 'slow media rage' (akin to road rage, it comprises undue aggression triggered by malfunctioning machines/gadgets), overly aggressive behaviour (as a function of violent video games), and pervasive developmental disorders (for instance, autism).

"The next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) - a compilation of diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses - will include a disorder called 'Media Addiction'!" he shared, asserting, "Marketers must exercise responsibility and regulation. It is a must."

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