Gen Zalpha Tweens: Engage Free Time and State of Play to Accelerate Brand Loyalty

Understand the meaningful experiences that come with free time and the state of play for tweens to capture the attention and loyalty of Gen Zalpha and their parents for years to come.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

September 22, 2023
Giana Damianos – Research Manager

Tweens aged 8-12 are an important cohort, bridging the gap from childhood to teens. It’s this age range where kids begin to hone in on their identity and develop attitudes and preferences independent from their parents. How they spend their free time today will formatively shape them for years to come as consumers. And their parents play a large role in that. Today’s 8-12-year-olds are part of a ‘cusper’ generational cohort, comprised of the youngest of Gen Z and the oldest of Gen Alpha—unofficially dubbed “Gen Zalpha”—and they’re mainly the children of Millennials and Gen Xers. Brands must understand the unique needs and perspectives of parents and tweens today in order to capture their attention and maintain loyalty for years to come.

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Gen Zalpha Tweens - Slide Deck Example

Collage Group’s 2023 Media Habits and Preferences Study provides insights on where people are using media, why they’re going there, and how your brand can authentically engage with your target segments across channels. This report dives deep into Multicultural consumers’ platform usage and drivers, content preferences, and engagement.

What surprised us:

Today’s tweens have more free time than the media generally portrays—and they’re largely satisfied with the amount of free time they have. With so much attention and energy put into keeping kids busy in today’s society, it’s easy to assume that childhood has evolved into a utopian state that’s perfectly optimized and rid of boredom, but that’s not the reality for the vast majority of tweens—nor their parents.

Why it matters:

Free time today looks dramatically different from a decade or two ago as a result of new technology and the internet, but ultimately, how kids want to spend their time is the same.

Graph showing how 8-12 year olds spend their free time
Total parents vs total tweens chart

The Big Picture:

    1. Parents and tweens are in a tug of war over unstructured free time. Despite agreement that free time is already well-balanced, parents strive to structure their kids’ time while tweens crave more independence.

    2. For today’s tweens, the “online vs offline” binary is outdated. It’s not an either/or: The two are indispensable parts of everyday life. The real goal is harmony.

Key Insight #1: Free Time Expectations

Know This:

Parents generally feel good about the amount of free time their kids are getting but societal pressure is making many second guess whether they should be structuring and planning more of their kids’ time.

Do This:

    • Give parents the permission they seek to structure less by enabling tweens to structure their own time and by messaging against the societal pressures to do more.
      • Try this: Promoting the benefits of boredom, fostering a sense of independent play in Tweens.
Optimization versus time pressure on parents

Key Insight #2: Online Free Time and Play Preferences

Know This:

Screen time is a staple of tween life today, fulfilling their needs of both entertainment and socializing. But parents are skeptical of so much time spent online, especially moms—even if there are benefits to it.

Do This:

    • Destigmatize tweens’ tech usage by helping parents feel more comfortable with it.
      • Highlight tools and educate them on ways they can feel more confident in their tweens’ relationship to technology.
      • Promote the benefits of tech, especially its interplay with IRL activities such as socializing and skill building.
Chart on how parents feel about 8-12 year old children and online activities

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Giana Damianos

Giana Damianos

Giana joined Collage in 2019 from Indiana University, where she studied economics, political science and psychology. In her spare time, Giana is getting to know Washington DC and its historic architecture.

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