Ipsos Panel Reveals How to Connect with the Solitary Gen Z Viewer

Discover insights collected from our panel of Gen Z teens exploring media and entertainment consumption behaviors.

The author(s)

  • Elizabeth Jarosz Strategist / Moderator, U.S. Qualitative, Ipsos
Get in touch

Members of Gen Z tend to be physically alone when consuming media and entertainment, a trend that has major implications for teen development and companies trying to understand them. Older generations may remember more social experiences from their youth and young adulthood, where family or friends gathered to watch a favorite sitcom or movie. Compare this to the solitary figure of today’s teenager, whose eyes are constantly fixed on a small screen, alone. This dependence on mobile devices has increased during the pandemic among a generation already accustomed to them.

Teens, Ipsos qualitative has found, have no problem watching long-form content on a small screen. In fact, they prefer watching media or entertainment on their phones, even when a bigger screen is available. Several reasons explain this. Download our latest paper for detailed insights into this intriguing cohort.

I’ve made a joke that we are the guinea pig generation to see what happens to people that have been raised on screens, like 50 years after their childhood. It’s probably not bad for us, but also we don’t know that 100%, and we probably won’t know until we’re all adults.

Be sure to also revisit our live discussion with Ipsos’ teen panelists.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Members of Gen Z tend to view entertainment on their phones, alone.
  • A variety of factors contribute to solitary viewing, from their relationships with their phones, to busy schedules, to the impact of the pandemic.
  • Brands—through authentic, meaningful outreach—can help foster connections between teens, especially by encouraging in-person connections, or meaningful connections experienced virtually.

Members of Gen Z tend to be physically alone when consuming media and entertainment, a trend that has major implications for teen development and companies trying to understand them.

Older generations may remember more social experiences from their youth and young adulthood, where family or friends gathered to watch a favorite sitcom or movie. Compare this to the solitary figure of today’s teenager, whose eyes are constantly fixed on a small screen, alone.

This dependence on mobile devices has increased during the pandemic among a generation already accustomed to them. Teens, Ipsos qualitative has found, have no problem watching long-form content on a small screen. In fact, they prefer watching media or entertainment on their phones, even when a bigger screen is available. Several reasons explain this.

  • The phone helps them focus: While the ubiquity of mobile technology affects all of us, the impact is elevated for Gen Z since mobile tech has been integrated into their lives from the beginning. If the TV is on, it typically serves as background noise as teens focus on social media and streaming media on their phones. If they’re watching on the phone, they’re less likely to be multi-tasking with another device.
  • The phone puts them in control: Phones allow teens to control and customize an entertainment experience more easily, enabled by the diversity of available content and services. If they have a small amount of time, they may go on TikTok.

If they have a little more time, Netflix and other streaming services enable them to easily navigate to their desired content. Sometimes TikTok even leads them to other streaming content. Importantly, they do not discriminate between user-generated content and scripted, Ipsos found.

Gen Z and Millennials more likely to watch TV on Smartphone

Other factors may contribute to a solitary watching habit. One mentioned is the extracurricular-stuffed life of the average Gen Z member. Many of today’s teens and young adults have grown accustomed to putting ambitious sports, school or extracurricular goals ahead of family or social time.

As one Ipsos panelist said, “I’m not sitting down and watching TV. At least as a kid, it was always a family thing… (now) my family’s really busy, especially with all of the sports and stuff that we’re in.” Teens may be squeezing entertainment breaks into schedules that don’t necessarily mesh with friends and family.

Another contributor may be the physical isolation from peers that teens have grown accustomed to as part of COVID-19. A full 40% of teens say the pandemic has worsened their relationships with friends. Many teens are out of the habit of informal in-person gatherings. In some cases, it may still be discouraged, and in other cases, teens are still rebuilding their atrophied in-person social skills.

What impact has the pandemic had on your relationship with friends?

There may also be an aspect of coping with disruption to social development. Psychologists explain that teens naturally move away from their parents towards greater independence and connection with peers. It’s possible that, stuck at home with parents and unable to connect in person with peers, they instinctively sought an electronic escape.

WHAT’S NEXT

If Gen Z is the loneliest generation and remote connection doesn’t always offer the same benefits, how can brands make their solitary experience more social?

  1. Continue to inspire conversations between friends and family about entertainment. While our panelists were not watching with others, they were talking about shows with others. This may provide (or lead to) a needed connection—as long as there aren’t spoilers. “They’re always jumping around [excited], talking about it, especially if it’s a new show, and I have to, like, cover their mouth, so they won’t say any spoilers for other people around us.”
  2. Explore deeper remote connections, like the use of virtual reality or simultaneous viewing where teens can share real life, in a real way. Ensure these go beyond the artificial interactions and superficial connection currently experienced with social media.
  3. Find ways for your brand to encourage in-person connection of teens and their friends, when and where appropriate.

 

Download

The author(s)

  • Elizabeth Jarosz Strategist / Moderator, U.S. Qualitative, Ipsos

New Services