Japanese Children: 20 Years of Change 2: “Freemium Natives”

Dec. 7, 2018
  • Research
  • HILL

Members of the generation that has been surrounded by digital devices for as long as they can remember have been called “digital natives,” but they’ve evolved and we have dubbed them “Freemium Natives.”

Three characteristics of “Freemium Natives”

Here we introduce the everyday lives of Freemium Natives we visited to observe them at home.

When we went to the places that Freemium Natives live and interacted directly with them, we discovered that they differ from children until now in three areas: How they relate to their friends, How they enjoy content, and How they spend money.

How do they relate to their friends?

Cyberspace is a playground contiguous to the real world

[ They’re connected online, so they can play together, even when apart ]
A 6th grade boy and his younger brother often play online games with friends while talking to each other via a mike. Freemium Natives don’t get together at one another’s places to play TV games with their friends. They play with friends elsewhere in real time by connecting online.

[ They have more active interactions via chat than in real life ]
They use chat app voice tools to talk to each other, too. A 5th grade girl talks to her classmates about things she’d rather not talk about in front of the teacher via a LINE group. They communicate around 300 times in the space of five to six hours.

Since the advent of tools that enable them to communicate for free and at high-speed just as they would in the real world, children no longer need to go out to get together with their friends. To Freemium Natives, cyberspace is a place where they can continue their real-world relationships.

How do they enjoy content?

Their content choices are ruled by a very neutral sense of interest

[ Interesting content comes to them ]
Like other kids, Japanese children enjoy free video sites like YouTube. A 5th grade girl looks at “You may also like” thumbnails and watches the videos that look interesting.

[ Old or new, official or not, it doesn’t matter ]
We came across many kids that were into content from decades ago. There were also lots of children enjoying parodies and secondary creations more than the originals. Freemium Natives enjoy the masses of content archived on the net, regardless of whether it’s new or old, official or unofficial.


Since they come across a large variety of content through recommendations, “new” and “official” are no longer absolute values for Freemium Natives. All content is fair game, and they choose it purely on whether they enjoy it.

How do they spend Money?

Paying is a way of giving a “Like”

[ They’re basically satisfied with content that’s available for free. But they don’t mind paying for something they really like ]
An 8th grade boy always plays this game for free. But including the ticket, he paid 18,000 yen to participate in a music concert for the game.

[ In an age where everything’s free, they want to support their favorite activities and people ]
A 7th grade boy supports his favorite comic by paying through a comic app. He said that comics that receive little support are discontinued, so he wants to pay to make sure his favorite work is not canceled.

Freemium Natives generally use free content, but that doesn’t mean they don’t spend. To them, paying is a way of giving a “Like.” In our most recent quantitative research, too, the number of respondents who said they buy tickets to movies and concerts was the highest ever.

The three features of “Freemium Natives can be summarized as follows.

Survey outlines by Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living

●Survey of Children
2017: 800 boys and girls enrolled in 4th to 8th grade as of March 31, 2017 within 40 km of Tokyo; conducted February–March 2017;
2007: 800 boys and girls enrolled in 5th to 9th grade as of July 31, 2007 within 40 km of Tokyo; conducted June–July 2007
1997: 1,500 boys and girls enrolled in 4th to 8th grade as of March 31, 1997 within 40 km of Tokyo; conducted March 1997
●Home Visit Survey
Boys and girls enrolled in 5th to 9th grade as of April 1, 2017, and their parents (33 people in total), within 40 km of Tokyo; conducted April–May 2017

Japanese Children: 20 Years of Change 1: Children today

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