Most Children in ‘Netflix-Only’ Households Don’t Know What TV Commercials Are: Survey
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By Carey Wedler
According to a recent survey conducted by a streaming data site that analyzes trends in online entertainment, the vast majority of young children who watch Netflix instead of television have something in common: They don’t know what commercials are.
In a small sample size, Exstreamist surveyed parents about their children’s knowledge of television advertising. After polling 50 parents with Netflix-only homes and 50 parents who let their children watch television, Exstreamist found 82% of children in the Netflix-only category were aware of what a commercial is. By comparison, only 38% of children who watch television had trouble understanding the familiar form of advertising.
“Our two young daughters have probably seen fewer than 10 commercials in their lives, we pretty much only stream kids shows on Netflix and Hulu,” one participating parent said.
Of course, this survey has multiple limitations. For one, the sample size is small. Further, the children were not questioned directly; their parents spoke for them. This leaves room for parents’ lack of knowledge of their children’s online activities to creep into the survey outcome. Youtube, for example, is a top destination for kids streaming content on the internet, and Youtube is heavily populated with commercials. Just because a child cannot define a “commercial” explicitly does not mean they are not familiar with advertising content. The survey also failed to specify exactly what a Netflix-only household means; are children permitted to watch other streaming services? Hulu offers an ad-free version (and was mentioned by at least one parent), and Amazon Prime also runs without commercials.
Clearly, more scientific research is needed to determine the full extent of Netflix’s effect on children’s relationship with commercials. Nevertheless, the survey lines up with a more extensive analysisExstreamist published last year. According to that widely-reported article, Netflix “saves” children from up to 150 hours of commercials every year. That’s about six days worth.
Using data from activist organization Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which cites various academic studies analyzing the topic, Exstreamist determined that “children between the ages of two and 18 are spending an average of 1.8 hours a day using streaming services.”
“That rounds out to about 650 hours of streaming TV and movies each year. According to Nielsen, every hour of TV has over 14 minutes of advertising. So if your kid was in front of a normal television broadcast for this period of time, they would have watched over 150 hours of commercials.”
Younger generations’ preference for streaming services, as opposed to cable television, represents an exodus away from more controlled, centralized forms of entertainment. Rather than being subject to the programming schedules and ever-increasing ads offered on conglomerate-dominated television, children and teens are opting for uninterrupted content.
While this is, for many, a welcome shift away from often mind-numbing, establishment options, overall consumption continues to worry some. Cordcutting.com, another website focused on trends in streaming services, has suggested the 650–hour figure has concerning implications:
“That’s far, far more time than kids spend on unstructured outdoor play, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Excluding structured activities, modern kids spend an average of just four to seven minutes outdoors playing each day. That means that the average child spends 14 to 26 times more time binge-watching their favorite Netflix shows than they do playing freely outside!”