Many people doubt the accuracy of children research, but fail to recognize that adults can also be subject to social desirability, persona bias, and a range of other issues that can distort their response. But like all good insight work, it is the design of the methodology and the skill of the researcher that can compensate for these factors and yield deep, rich learnings to truly understand their consumer.
Kids are an important demographic to understand and tap into because they influence their parents’ buying decisions (from what breakfast to buy to what software to buy) and are the adult consumers of the future.
So what are some challenges and tips to keep in mind when researching kids under 9?
It is hard to ask direct questions to children and to maintain their focus, especially in professional and school-like settings.
- Tip 1: Keep away from pen and paper. Using interactive stimuli delivered through mobile apps and tablets, or even traditional visualizers and artistic mediums like clay or crayons, can allow you to create interactive experiences that are enjoyable and leverage the creative focus of the children.
- Tip 2: Keep activities to 45 minutes to 1 hour; the shorter, the better, and breaks are great.
Relevance/Reliability of Data
Kids want to ‘be right’ or do what they think adults will say is ‘right.’ When their parents are present, they try even harder to say what they think is expected.
- Tip 3: Keep parents out of the room. Instead, have parents monitor from a double mirror or other channel, allowing them to comment and add interpretation to their kids’ behavior.
- Tip 4: iPads and mobile phones are intuitive to this generation and can directly offer the questions and activities, removing the presence of the adult interviewer.
- Tip 5: Show older children how to interview each other and allow them to conduct their own “friendship interviews”, allowing them to be more relaxed and to allow for more spontaneous dialogue and interactions.
- Tip 6: New tools (like sensors) to observe real-time behavior can add another layer of useful data
Large Gaps in Cognitive/Social/Verbal Abilities
The cognitive and verbal abilities between even just a year in age vastly differ between children.
- Tip 7: Tailor activities and questions specifically to each age group. Too young of a question, they might get bored or answer silly deliberately. Too old of a question, and they will try to sound like they know what they are talking about.
- Tip 8: Do not clump different age groups together. If you try to clump 6-8 year olds in the same room, the younger children will feel intimidated, and the 8 year old children will feel insulted.
- Tip 9: Create focus groups of 6 with children of the same age. 6 so it has enough for people to chime in, but not too much that it’s too roudy to handle or would require extra moderators.