In 1945, an atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, effectively putting an end to World War II. Around the same time, another bomb was dropped smack-dab in the middle of the United States—a cultural bomb that spawned the birth of “youth culture.”
Never in the history of our nation had such a distinct and fundamental change to our society occurred. All of a sudden, parents were dealing with a new kind of son and daughter. Kids now had their own kinds of clothes, music, idols and fashions, not to mention vocabularies.
If you were to mention the word “tween” to the average parent or pastor five years ago, you would be met with a blank stare. In my weekly contact with parents and church leaders within the last year, however, I have found the word no longer requires explanation.
But for those who may still be wondering, here’s what it means to be a tween: Some researchers define this coveted market as pre-teens ages 8 to12. Others stretch the demographic to the age of 14. Whatever the overlap, one thing is clear: Tweens aren’t children, but they’re not yet teens. They truly are “in between,” and parents and churches are feeling the tension—along with the tweens themselves.
So how did this demographic group—which has a very unique set of values and needs come to be? Just a few years ago, the 12-and-under gang spent $27.9 billion of its own money and influenced $248.7 billion of Mom’s and Dad’s spending in one year alone. This “kid-fluence” is expected to grow between 5 percent and 20 percent in the next 10 years, reports USA Today.
Having the discretionary funds available to support the creation of such a “tween culture” is one of the ways we got here. Poorer cultures can’t afford for kids to be tweens or even teens. In most cultures outside of the Western world, kids transition much sooner into adulthood than their North American counterparts; economic realities demand it.
Next time we’ll take a close look at four key trends that define the tween generation. This generation is growing up fast and faces unique challenges unheard of in prior generations. It’s important we understand them—so we can reach them before they need to be rescued.