Gen Alpha: What Marketers Should Know About How Today’s Children Use Technology

Today’s 6-year-olds enjoy coloring and blocks. They can also probably use a tablet and its corresponding apps better than most adults. They speak to Amazon’s Alexa as if she is a close friend and when they need information, the first place they turn is the Internet (rather than a parent).

Meet Generation Alpha, children born from 2010-2025. These children have never lived in a world without technology and will no doubt be the most information and tech-savvy generation yet. They’re already influencing purchasing decisions, even without buying power.

Their Millennial parents are the most involved ever. According to Forbes: “They place high value on good parenting and are somewhat more likely than other generations to say being a parent is extremely important to their identity”. It is that relationship which Mashable points out, has led to this startling statistic: Millennial parents spend more than $1 trillion per year on their children, and that amount will only continue to grow.

So, what can we expect from this Alpha Generation? I interviewed the parents of children in the group to find out.

Denyse is a 42-year-old banker, and a mom to her 7-year-old son (as well as children ages 14 and 18). Her son’s relationship with technology has been eye-opening. “He is much better at finding information on the Internet than I am and I can see a lot of benefits of his use. He has an app to help him with everything from his math homework to facts on his favorite subject, history.” On the flip side, Denyse feels that her son does not rely on her as much as a source of information, which can be jarring. “If we go to the doctor and he’s given a shot, he comes home and Googles what the shot was for. My older children would have asked me that type of question.”

23-year-old Erin is a nanny to siblings, ages 2 and 5. She says technology has impacted the health of the 5-year-old she cares for immensely. “He was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. His doctors recommended music to help him combat his symptoms. Having easy access to a huge selection of music on YouTube has helped us identify which styles help him relax, which energize him. He uses his iPad to calm himself in stressful situations.” If this child is any reflection of others in his age group, they will likely be exposed to therapies at a much earlier age than previous generations, and take a more hands-on approach to their wellbeing.

Alex, 32, is a mom to a newborn and already sees the impact technology will have on her son as he grows. “Unlike older family members, my registry included a Kindle Fire (tablet). It was recommended by other parents because it comes with a child-proof case and has parental controls. I imagine my little one will be using it from a very early age but for now, I am using it to research eco-friendly diapers.” Although her son cannot sit up on his own yet, he is already influencing her purchase decisions in more ways than one. When I asked her what is in her go-bag should her child need to go to the doctor or hospital, the first item on her list was a tablet, to keep him occupied watching online videos while they wait to be seen.

Today’s toddlers will grow up in an age of infinite information. These children will be able to build and learn faster than ever, having access to years of data from a very young age. They will rely on the Internet for the answers to their questions and social media for making connections. Much sooner than it seems, they will consume media in their generation’s own unique way, with technology we cannot yet even imagine.

What will this mean for advertisers? Gen Alpha will grow up with access to social media. Two-way communication between them and the brands they connect with go beyond being vital to those companies’ success – it will be mandatory. Brands will need to prioritize not only having a social presence, but being active in the space and continuing to develop new ways to make genuine connections with consumers online. Video will continue to lead in content, with parents already seeing their Gen Alpha children gravitating toward it. It will be essential that brands find ways to tell their stories which incorporate captivating video and stay ahead of the competition. And finally, influencers will become more important than ever. Many of the parents surveyed already saw their children developing content on YouTube and creating blogs at school to discuss, in part, their favorite toys, clothing, etc. There is no doubt that by young adulthood, many members of Gen Alpha will already have showcased their influencer status and will be a key to success for those brands which take them on as ambassadors. Advertisers will need to approach these new consumers in a different way than any they have before, with their digital and social feet forward.