No marketer should make the mistake of thinking that there is no difference between tweens and teens. The transition from childhood to adolescence is a big turning point — socially, mentally, physically and emotionally. Just ask any parent with children between the ages of 8 and 14.

"It also marks a turning point in online behavior," says Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and the author of the new report, Tweens and Teens Online: From Mario to MySpace. "Teens ages 12 to 14 go online more frequently than children who are 8 to 11, spend more time online and engage in a variety of online social and communication activities, such as instant messaging and social networking, that kids slightly younger have yet to grasp."

"Today, tweens’ online usage patterns are more like those of children than teens," says Ms. Williamson, "but this will begin to change as they become more experienced online users at a younger age."

In the near term, eMarketer has identified four trends that highlight the online transition from tween to teen:

  • Social studies: As tweens become teens, socializing online becomes more important than activities such as game playing. There are sharp increases in the use of instant messaging, text messaging, blogging, social networking and more.
  • Multi-tasking: Between the ages of 8 and 14, kids learn how to mediate their attention among a variety of inputs, including their mobile phones, the TV, the Internet and music. The multi-tasking abilities of teens are just starting to bloom in the tween years. The more tweens multi-task the less attention they can devote to any one activity, and that has implications for marketing.
  • Expectation of media anywhere/anytime: The tweens and young teens of today will be the first generation to fully embrace the concept of media anywhere/everywhere. Rather than associating short-form programs with television, two-hour programs with movie theaters and songs with CDs and radio, tweens and young teens will come into adulthood fully expecting to obtain their media on a variety of interchangeable platforms.
  • Growing influence on family purchase decisions: Tweens are becoming more and more brand savvy, and their role in family purchase decisions is growing. As international market researcher Euromonitor puts it in its 2006 report "Tweens: A Force to Be Reckoned With," "Research suggests that [tweens] will increasingly become powerful and influential consumers. This will result from greater levels of independence, a general rise in disposable income and increased pampering from parents."
"The tween/young teen demographic group has great potential for online marketers," says Ms. Williamson. "They are forming brand preferences, and they have comparatively less skepticism about advertising than older teens and adults."

However, marketers must tread cautiously because there has also been great criticism of online marketing to children. While research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 85% of brands that market to children on TV also market to them online, the use of many interactive tactics, such as games, to market to kids has been criticized on many fronts.

More here.