BOYS vs GIRLS: the gender differences of #inbeTWEENers


Tweens are often termed the ‘inbetweeners’, caught between the kiddie world that’s focused on fantasy/play and the fledgling world of teenagerdom that’s about self expression within the group. Marketers looking to engage with tweens in todays digital environment need to understand that there are huge gender differences between boys and girls aged 8-12. I wrote about these gender differences in a previous post here, but this visual above is a snapshot I created with my fellow planner Paul Gage on the tween gender differences.

Put simply tween girls are all about the social context, playing in co-operation with their friends as they do things online. Once they hit 12-13yrs however, this co-operation turns into competition. We’re seeing the new digital trend of Instagram beauty pageants where girls post selfies and compete with each other as to who’s hot or not. Check out #beautycontest or #beautypageant on Instagram.

 They’re also looking for brands to provide deeper storytelling content online, they’re after detail, flourishes of pastel colours and the ability to create their own branded memories to share with friends.

On the flipside, unsurprisingly, tween boys are about adventure, action, gadgets. They’re visual rather than being verbal focused in their interaction. Their gaming world has trained them to focus on a hero character as the social context is less important. They want brands to be quick and to the point, bold colours and graphics and get excited by symbols of achievement as they compete with their friends in everything. Tween boy world is binary – yes or no and they are extremely single tasked focused. Good to see things don’t change as it’s true guys can’t do two things at once.

 Just a few tips and tricks to think about when looking to design brand experiences for tween boys or girls. Thanks Gagey for the shared insight.

Aussie kids say GFC is a major issue

digital kids

Sat through quite an interesting presentation by Cartoon Network yesterday. They do an annual ‘New Generations’ study of kids aged 7-14, sample size 2000. There was nothing amazingly breakthrough but some interesting statistics which I thought I’d share:


97% of 7-14yr olds have access to a laptop/desktop in the home, 87% have access to a digital camera and 70% to a handheld console. 50% of these kids also have a TV in their room and a whopping 58% have a a gaming console in their room.


Kids are spending on average 17.1hrs a week watching TV, next comes the web with 16.4hrs (defined as fun activities like social networking, chat, gaming) and 11 hours for playing video games. 45% of kids said they wish they played outside more…a worrying trend for the ‘cotton wool’ culture that exists in Australia.


When asked what they’d change about themselves, 45% of kids said they’d like to be smarter, 42% said they want to be better at sport and 26% said they’d change the way they look.


It’s clear that media and parental commentary has a massive influence on Aussie kids, no surprise right!! In terms of the most important world issue, 20% of kids said the financial crisis, 17% said environmental issues.


The GFC has brought with it a decline in kids pocket money, down 5% to 67% of kids getting pocket money. On average, 7-14yr olds get $10.52 a week, this is on an increasing scale with age. 7-8yr olds get $6.51, 9-10yr olds get $8.52, 13-14yr olds get $10.46 and 13-14yr olds get $15.61. For 13-14yr olds this equates to $1353 purchasing power a year which isn’t bad ‘play’ money.


Online gaming is by far the most popular digital activity for kids aged 7-14, it’s actually higher between ages 7-11 than it is as ages 12-14 as kids start discovering youtube and socila networking.


50% of kids aged 11 have a mobile, 76% of 12yr olds have one and a whopping 94% of 13-14yr olds have one. Texting (46%) is still by far the most popular use, with girls sending 10 texts a day and boys 6 texts a day. They start young.


No massive suprises here, it’s Miley, Zac Effron, Rob Pattinson, Daniel Radcliffe and the Jona Brothers.


Pink tops the list, not surprising as she’s just done 60 shows in Australia, Michael Jackson comes in at No.2 (on the back of his tragic passing), Taylor Swift is adored by young girls and Eminem is back in the kids good books off his latest album.


WWF star John Cena tops the list for the boys with Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos rugby league star) and David Beckham coming in third.


20% of kids say ‘ME’, which is nice to see that the ‘make me famous’ trends is still alive and well. Paris Jackson and Taylor Swift are seen as the next big things.

So that’s it, just some toplines on what’s happening with kids aged 7-14yrs in Australia in 2009. Thanks Cartoon Network for the insight.

BOYS VS GIRLS….the social differences

I’ve been doing some thinking about the key differences in the way young boys and girls socialise. My research is based on talking  directly to about 20 boys and girls aged 7-13 in essentially the tweens and early teens. Here are some thoughts on the differences I see in how they interact with each other and the psychology behind it.


Younger boys hang in larger groups less structured groups, they seek validation by surrounding themselves with 4-5 friends all the time. They seek out less intense relationships, happy to see those buddies once or twice a week and hang out at the skater park. Their conversations are very ‘light on’, they never go into much detail, they are starting to develop their masculine side and it’s seen as weakness if you talk in lots of detail with your buddies about stuff…no conversations on a topic last more than 5 minutes. A key part of this is the word ‘MY’ – all the young boys I spoke to saw themselves as the centre of their tribe, even though they clearly weren’t J. They are very much into ‘my crew’ mentality and seek belonging within these mini tribes which exist typically at a locational level in where they live.

In contrast, young girls of the same age display duo or ‘US’ behaviour, in that they seek intense relationships with 1-2 other girls.At this age,   rather than spend time organising to ‘meet the girls’ (this kicks in around 15), they are far more into the 1-1 dynamic,  where they can dive deep into stuff in their lives: pop stars, boys at school, dance, etc, etc. At school they are very much defined and classified by who their ‘bestie’ (best friend) is. Whereas for boys, it’s more the collective of 6+ close friends.


Boys are more mechanical in their interactions with their buddies, their connections typically revolve around ‘playing sports’ with each other, hanging at the skate park, playing xbox, going down to the beach. There’s very much a ‘side by side’ mentality and the tween and early teen years are all about finding what you’re good at. It’s a time of constant discovery and experimentation.

Girls are into ‘face to face’ time, it’s about more intimate dialogues, online or offline. For them it’s about ‘getting to know each’ other and they are starting to develop their nurturing and supportive personalities.


Competition between males is part of our DNA, and kids/tweens start exhibiting this behaviour on through ‘dares’ and ‘physical challenges’. The boys I spoke to were all about ‘daring’ each other to do tricks in the skate park, jump off logs into the creeks. It’s all about status within their micro communities and achievement. They are starting to master their body and this then builds as they get into more competitive sports at school. In the virtual world this competitive side also comes out through the games they play, typically fantasy and war games, so they are also displaying more ‘aggressive’ personality traits than previous kid/tween generations.

If boys are about ‘competition’, girls are about ‘CO-OPERATION’. For them these years are about exploring relationships, the need to constantly connect and seek validation about their personalities, their likes and interest. Today kids are seeking immense pressure in how they manage their online personas, how they are perceived on facebook, bebo etc.

Marketers looking to engage kids aged 7-13 need to think about these gender differences between young boys and girls and the psychology behind their interactions. Obviously, BELONGING and developing their self identity via interactions with other kids is part of growing up, but it is interesting to see the fundamental differences between the sexes which continue to manifest into later teen years and early adulthood. I’m going to do a similar study on 14-18yr olds and to see wha