Be Nice To Little Kids—You Might Need To Tap One For A Loan Someday

Who says today’s kids are rotten? In one crucial respect, a majority of them are exemplary. A survey by Mediamark Research Inc. asked kids age 6-11 what they do when they’re watching TV and a commercial comes on. Fifty-eight percent said they watch it. There’s hope yet for the nation!

Those of you who worry that kids are too materialistic may find less-hopeful indications in the poll. Seventy-two percent of the boys and 68 percent of the girls subscribed to the statement, “I want to make a lot of money when I am older.” Apparently some of them feel they can get rich without benefit of a higher education, as the prospective money-makers outnumbered the kids who said they want to go to college (55 percent of boys, 63 percent of girls). For that matter, they exceeded the number who said, “My friends are an important part of my life” (58 percent of boys, 65 percent of girls). If these kids do get rich, don’t count on them to become philanthropists: Fewer than half the boys (47 percent) and just over half the girls (55 percent) said they “often do things to help other people.”

Having gauged the kids’ moral fiber, the poll went on to examine their media-usage habits. Notwithstanding their much-touted comfort with new technology, kids are more likely to hear music via a car radio (as 74 percent of them do) than via any other means. Just 4 percent listen via a portable MP3 player and the same number use a stationary MP3 player; 26 percent listen by means of a computer. CD players (63 percent) and portable CD players (48 percent) play a considerably larger role.

The survey confirms that the Internet is a big presence in kids’ lives—but maybe not as big as people assume. An underwhelming 59 percent said they’d gone online within the 30 days before being polled; just 8 percent said they go online every day. Asked to specify their Internet activities during the past month, 43 percent reported playing online games—nearly double the 23 percent who said they went online to do schoolwork. Relatively few (11 percent) used e-mail during the last month; fewer still (7 percent) engaged in instant messaging.

If you wonder why you seldom see kids out riding their bikes or blowing up their neighbors’ mailboxes, look at the findings the poll got when it asked kids to enumerate the “things you have in your room”: 60 percent have a CD player, 56 percent a TV, 36 percent a video game system, 29 percent a stereo, 27 percent a DVD player, 17 percent a computer and 7 percent Internet access. Under the circumstances, it’s a wonder we ever see them outdoors at all.