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There’s no denying the influence of social media celebrities on America’s youth as new research from Mintel reveals that more than one third (34%) of kids aged 6-17 consider social media stars* to be among their top role models, outranking the influence of musicians (33%), athletes (27%), actors (22%) and even the President (16%).

But moms and dads, by far and away, carry the most influence as kids say their parents (86%) are their top role models. Further cementing today’s parent-child relationship, 85% of kids agree that they have a closer relationship with their parents than most kids. Other top role models for kids and teens are teachers (62%) and siblings (41%).

Further proof of the influence of social media, while TV commercials (62%) are the main way kids find out about new entertainment (eg toys, movies), YouTube ranks as the second most common source of information (58%).

“Much has been said about the power of social media influencers and our research confirms how important these ‘internet stars’ can be when it comes to reaching kids. Brands should consider how they can not only tap into the power of current YouTube and Instagram stars, but also foster their own by investing in original social content. While brands promoting a large-scale launch of a kid-centric product or service will likely continue to rely on TV as a primary channel for their messaging, they should consider how social, online and streaming channels can be used to supplement TV efforts,” said Dana Macke, Associate Director of Lifestyles and Leisure at Mintel.

2 in 5 parents agree that they’ve changed their behavior to be an example for their kids.

Kids weigh in on family decisions

Today’s parents seem to be taking a different approach than previous generations when it comes to raising kids. Mintel research shows that nearly half (47%) of parents overall** say they give their kids more of a say in family decisions than their parents gave them, and another 47% say they are closer with their kids than their parents were with them. When it comes to parents’ own behavior, more than two in five (46%) agree that they’ve changed their behavior to be an example for their kids.

Most children aren’t shy when it comes to asking for the things they want. In fact, eight in 10 (82%) parents with kids aged 6-11 say their kids ask for things they see on TV. Meanwhile, more than three quarters (77%) of parents with kids aged 6-11 say their children ask for things that their friends have.

“Kids have an undeniable impact on parents’ spending decisions. Marketers should be aware that today’s closer parent-child relationships may mean that targeting one of these groups means targeting both. Parents are more likely to be including kids in family decisions and kids may look to their parents for guidance on decisions well into their teen years. This challenges marketers to develop strategies that appeal to both parents and kids, even though their goals may be very different,” continued Macke.

Kids beg for brands, while parents say no to sugar

It seems that some kids are calling the shots when it comes to buying food for the family as 19% of parents overall admit that they’ve changed brands of household food products because their kids asked them to. For many parents, making sure their kids are in on the latest brands and products is top of mind as 33% pay attention to trends to help their kids fit in at school.

73% of parents with kids aged five and under say no to food and drinks due to its sugar content.

However, parents draw the line when it comes to sugar as media headlines on the negative effects of sugar and taxes on sugary drinks are affecting food and drink purchases at home. Nearly seven in ten (67%) parents overall agree that they say no to foods their kids may want because of sugar content. But, it appears parents’ concern wanes as their kids age: 73% of parents with kids aged five and under in the household say no to food and drinks due to sugar content, compared to 69% of parents with kids aged 6-11 and 60% of parents with kids aged 12-17. Parents overall also find themselves saying no to foods based on the artificial ingredients (44%), calories (26%) and GMOs (25%).

Kids’ healthy eating habits are driven by their parents’ as 38% of kids aged 6-17 say their parents eat mostly health food and a similar 36% of kids say they themselves also eat mostly health food. What’s more, a conscientious one in five (17%) kids worry about staying healthy.

“One area where we see parents really putting their foot down is their kids’ diet. More specifically, the sugar content in the food and drinks they consume, which is undoubtedly related to the national conversation about the harmful effects of sweetened beverages, including carbonated soft drinks and juice. Low-sugar options would thus seem to be an important consideration for food and beverage companies targeting parents. With significant, although lesser, concern about artificial ingredients, all-natural sweetener alternatives may also be a win with moms and dads. For products that are inherently sweet, such as processed fruit products, making a distinction between naturally occurring sugar and ‘added sugar’ can be a claim that resonates with parents,” concluded Macke.

*When asked to select “the five people I look up to the most,” 34% of kids chose “YouTube stars” (base: 2,000 US internet users aged 6-17; survey conducted December 2017).
**Parents of kids under age 18 living in the household.

Press copies of Mintel’s Marketing to Kids and Tweens US 2018 and Kids as Influencers US 2018 reports, as well as interviews with Dana Macke, Associate Director of Lifestyles and Leisure, are available on request from the press office.