2019 American Music Awards

How Teens Fuel Future Digital Consumption

The increasing democratization of devices and media platforms is turning kids into their own tastemakers earlier in life.

Understanding the minds of teenagers has been a vexing occupation for adults since the dawn of humanity. Nielsen is among the latest to peer into the fog of adolescence to find clues about what tools teens use to find digital entertainment and how those choices will shape their spending for decades to come.

What did Nielsen find? First, they prefer smartphones and tablets. U.S. households with teens are acquiring such devices at a faster rate than any other gadget. Second, they spend more time watching videos on their mobile devices than any other group--seven hours and 48 minutes per month, compared with five hours and 20 minutes for adults aged 25-34. Third, as teens leave home, they tend to rely more on their laptops for entertainment.

Kids and teens like mobile devices because they can privately select and discover their own entertainment rather than having to vie for the remote with siblings or face censure from parents. The result: "Parents don't have as much control as they used to over what their kids are watching or listening to," says David Bakula, Nielsen senior VP of client development and insights. "The age at which kids move away from listening to whatever their parents choose for them toward listening to their own stuff is getting younger and younger, and that's primarily because of these devices."

For entertainment companies, finding ways to get in the path of teens' self-directed discovery becomes crucial to shaping their future entertainment preferences and tastes. For example, older teens and young adults aged 18-34 are 42% more likely than the average U.S. adult to listen to streaming, on-demand music. They're also 15% less likely to use AM/FM radio, but 73% more likely to use online radio as their primary music source.

"We know that teens are consuming music through streaming services, with YouTube being their main point of consumption for music," Bakula says.

Mobile apps, like Twitter's recently released #music, are also playing a bigger role in helping people discover new music by looking into their existing music libraries and recommending similar artists. Whether teens use or pay attention to such apps, or whether they rely more on word-of-mouth from their all-important peers, remains to be seen.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.