– By Doug West
©2003, The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

Marketers created adolescence as a bridge between childhood and adulthood. Now a new market segment has been created between children and teens. These post-child, pre-teen youth are being affectionately labeled as “tweens.” There are an estimated 27 million tweens, generally defined as 8-14 year olds. Those who work with or minister to youth need to be aware of the cultural “trickle-down” effect, where influence increasingly flows down the age spectrum ladder.

CPYU highlights some of the main characteristics of the emerging Tween market.

  • Tweens are developing – As children approach and progress through puberty they are changing mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually.
  • Tweens are vulnerable – As a result of the many changes going on in their lives, tweens are increasingly vulnerable to exploitive and manipulative marketing strategies as they are exposed to increasingly mature media content, while lacking (but learning) critical thinking, discernment skills.
  • Tweens are powerful – Tweens exert considerable purchasing power influence. One recent report says tweens control $39 billion in spending and influence far more ( BRANDchild author Martin Lindstrom estimates tweens spend $150 billion a year and influence another $150 billion per year.
  • Tweens are transitioning – The nuclear family exerts less influence. A Harris Interactive YouthPulse reports that 74 percent of tweens said mom was their role model, compared to 44 percent of teens; while 48 percent of tweens and 38 percent of teens said dad was their role model. Some 59 percent of tweens regularly play cards or board games with parents, versus 25 percent of teens. More than three-quarters of tweens (77 percent) regularly do homework with their parents, compared to 14 percent of teens. And 84 percent of tweens said they can freely talk to their parents, as opposed to 49 percent of teens.
  • Tweens are technological – Computers, the Internet, chat rooms, e-mail, Instant Messaging, cell phones and text messaging are, for the most part, staples for tweens.
  • Tweens are media saturated – One needs only to scan the cultural landscape to easily confirm this fact, or look at a tween’s room, peruse the movie theatre and television listings, and video game and magazine racks. Nickelodeon’s “Kid’s Choice Awards” caters to the tween category as it highlights the most popular media.
    Magazines: The growth of teen versions of adult magazines (CosmoGirl, Elle Girl, Teen People, Teen Vogue, etc), in addition to Seventeen and Teen, points to this new reality. Because of a phenomenon known as “age aspiration” (desiring to be older than you actually are), these so-called teen magazines attract a younger tween audience.TV and movies: There is much cross-pollination between TV and movies, as evidenced by the rise of actors such as Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Hilary Duff (“Lizzie McGuire” TV show and movie), Amanda Bynes (“The Amanda Show” and “What I Like About You” TV shows and What a Girl Wants movie), and Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle” TV show and Agent Cody Banks movie).
  • Tweens are sexual – Teen Pregnancy Web-site reports that nearly 20 percent of 12-14 year old youth have had sex (


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For more information on resources to help you understand today’s rapidly changing youth culture, contact the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.