Children aged under 15 are becoming a key segment for information and communications technologies (ICT), and the importance of this consumer group is set to rise rapidly as more of the world's emerging-market kids come online. Growing child IT literacy rates, expansion of e-learning tools and the surge in children's mobile gaming content are factors facilitating more frequent ICT usage by the under-15s. Businesses able to tap into this growing market stand to see strong opportunities, especially in countries where states are focusing on remote education and where academic infrastructure is lacking. However, ensuring child safety online and improving access for rural and low-income children remain concerns for the burgeoning segment.
Global Consumer Expenditure on Education and Population Aged 0-14: 2013-2020
Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/Eurostat/UN/OECD
Note: Figures are forecast and in constant terms
Children Drive Growing Global E-Learning Market
The global e-learning market is booming and the under-15 segment is expected to play a major part in helping it reach a forecast annual value of US$169 billion by 2018, according to trade sources. In most developed countries, children are coming online after the age of five and consider the Internet a vital part of their lifestyle from that point onwards. Interactive online activities focused on enhancing learning skills and helping prepare kids for academia are replacing traditional children’s mediums such as books and DVDs. IT-based self-learning tools have grown on the back of growing female employment, which has increased from 61.1% in 2000 to 63.3% in 2012 in developed economies, as mothers have fewer hours to spend with their children.
Lack of Infrastructure and Teachers in Emerging Markets Places the Onus on Kids’ ICT
In emerging economies, e-learning for children is being driven largely by either the lack of appropriate educational facilities or a desire to succeed above fellow peers. In Africa, for example, the segment is being driven by the former, as children are able to access the necessary texts and tools online as opposed to making difficult and often dangerous journeys to schools. In China, a familial drive for schooling excellence views e-learning as an additional tool in achieving academic success, especially in learning languages.
In both developed and developing countries teaching resources are being increasingly stretched, especially in terms of qualified personnel, and states are happy to promote and finance e-learning programmes that can alleviate state expenditure in education. With the world’s total consumer expenditure on education set to expand by 34.2% in real terms over 2013-2020, the strongest increase for a major spending category, the e-learning segment offers clear opportunities in developing content for increasingly IT-literate children.
Mobile Market Welcoming Kids as Digital Handsets Become Gaming Machines
The technological capability of digital devices, especially smartphones and tablets, and their wireless and relatively durable nature appeals greatly to children, and many are either borrowing their parents’ handsets or using their own for entertainment purposes. The surging mobile gaming industry, estimated to be worth globally at US$12.3 billion annually in 2013 by trade sources, is being influenced strongly by the under-15 segment. The relative affordability of mobile games and ease of use encourages parents to download content for their kids, until they are IT-literate enough to make decisions themselves. There are thus growing opportunities in tailoring mobile advertising at the under-15s and developing kid-friendly games that command revenues through purchases and extra-content fees.
Child Safety Paramount as Parental Controls Market Surges
As more children go online, safety measures to protect them from external influences and save internal data from their misuse are becoming increasingly important. This challenging aspect is being overcome through educating both parents and children in safe IT participation, with states such as Israel instructing schools to teach Internet safety. Nonetheless, digital child safety has also been a major driver behind the parental controls software market, which is expected to reach a global annual value of US$1.0 billion in 2013 according to trade sources.
Although delivering Internet access to low-income and rural households remains a challenge, especially in emerging markets, dynamic demographic indicators will continue to increase the appeal of delivering ICT services to children. The world’s population aged 0-14 is set to expand by 3.9% over 2013-2020, providing 1.9 billion potential customers for the consumption of technology services at the end of the period, while more children coming online will significantly raise the global online population from 37.5% in 2013 to almost 50.0% by 2020.