“Humor is the social currency for these happy, less stressed, overprotected achievers.”

With our “The Next Normal” study, we went to 24 countries to define the attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations that make global Millennials unique, Millennials being those aged 9-30 today. On the Nickelodeon side, our next task was to take a closer look at the younger end – the kids of today and figure out where this is all taking us.

In this story, we first look at the youngest Millennials, those aged 9-14. Following that, we then peer into the crystal ball at Post-Millennials, those kids under 8, who are already demonstrating a remarkably different set of characteristics and personality traits.

9-14 year olds are the happiest segment of the Millennial generation – and their positivity is increasing. They are also hard-working and oriented toward achievement.

  • 88% of 9-14s consider themselves very happy, compared with 70% of 25-30s
  • Directionally we see an upwards shift in 9-14s’ expressions of happiness from 2006 to 2012; in 2006 closer to 2/3 kids strongly agreed that “I am happy just the way things are in my life right now”
  • Nearly 8 in 10 agree that they “will not settle for anything less than what makes me happy”
  • They are more likely than 25-30s to agree that it’s important to study hard when younger to get a better job and to believe they can accomplish anything they want if they work hard enough
  • 9-14s today are more aware than in 2006 of the importance of studying hard to secure a better future:  up from 80% to 86%

The signs of success are changing – being part of a loving family and being rich are more important to 9-14s today, while having an enjoyable job and homeownership are less important.

  • Comparing the 9-14s of today with those of 2006 (pre-crash), we found that in 2006, kids put academic success and sense of achievement ahead of money … while today, money is more important, an indication that the global economic crisis is showing an impact
  • Kids today are more aware of the consequences of financial hardship and place less value on external measures of success
  • Money is secondary to being part of a loving family, which is more important than ever –something you can always fall back on
  • This generation may have to settle for any job over their dream job – and having “a job you enjoy” has fallen in the ranks

Being happy is still the most important sign of success.

Happiness has always been the top sign of success for kids, and that hasn’t changed

9-14 Millennials perceive themselves as less stressed.

  •  On a scale of 1 to 10, 9-14s rate their stress levels at 4.6 – below the 5.6 average in 2006
  • They may score themselves lower on stress because they don’t remember a time when things felt different – chaos and crisis are becoming the norm
  • Last Wavers are also the least stressed of all Millennials – 26% describe themselves as stressed, compared with 38% of First Wavers
  • Among 9-14 we have recorded a reduction stress levels for around 20% since 2006.

9-14 are more sheltered (by overprotective parents) … and less sheltered (via unprecedented digital exposure).

  • Kids today are more sheltered because “Velcro parents” (strong Velcro – no longer just “helicopter parents”) are cocooning their children more than any other generation of parents – a trend likely to increase
  • On the other hand, they are less sheltered because of their vast exposure to global images and ideas via the internet

Looking beyond Millennials … Post-Millennials (under 8s) will not know a time before the current economic situation and global terrorism fears, they’ll spend even more time with their parents, and interactive screens will be a big part of life.

Though there is little hard data on Post-Millennials, early research on their parents and analysis from generational experts suggests these will be key cultural influences:

  •  The changed economic situation will always be normal – parents may be more risk-averse in job changes and financial investments due to chronic employment difficulties
  • They will never remember a time before the fear of global terrorism
  • The amount of time parents and children spend together may reach a new peak
  •  Parents and kids will do more activities together that might have been done alone in the past – like gardening, chores, cooking, and exercise
  • Less time playing outdoors (as parents create controlled environments in an uncertain world), more time interacting with various screens
  •  They take the complete interactivity of portable digital entertainment platforms for granted

When it comes to personal traits, Post-Millennials are predicted to be sheltered, yet skilled at navigating social situations to their benefit.

Trait forecast for Post-Millennials:

  • Overprotected – sheltered to an unprecedented level because their Gen-X parents want to right the perceived wrongs of their own neglected childhoods
  •  Behaviorally trained – less informal play and more organized activities leads to new ways of negotiating and figuring out how to get what they want, resulting in their learning to say the right thing to turn a situation their way
  • Well socialized – in play environments where they have to form relationships with people they see occasionally, they will become sensitive to others and skilled at anticipating what others want from them
  • Well behaved – as parents become more risk-averse, so will they; greater understanding that you get ahead by playing by the rules
  •  Psychologically inhibited – as they become accustomed to telling others what they want to hear, they may find it difficult to express their true feelings
  • Skilled at mediation and compromise – discussion and persuasion are likely to become their trademarks

Humor is social currency for Post-Millennials – and they rate themselves as really funny.

  • They believe they’re the funniest person in their family
  • Like older kids, Post-Millennials like humor that’s simple, smart, and physical – but they have an even stronger affinity for comedy
  • What’s funny to them: ordinary kids (their heroes) in surprising juxtapositions, pain without blood, smart but ridiculous, and oddball humor where the regular kids rule

Carlos Garcia is Sr. Director of Research & Insights for Nickelodeon International. Follow Carlos at @CGarciaConnect