Was 2016 really “the worst year ever”? Kids give their opinions

To say that 2016 was a memorable year for the majority of the adult world may be an understatement. Many breathed a sigh of relief as this new year began – but how much did the apocalyptic media coverage of 2016 really affect centennials? We spoke to over 800 8-18 year olds from the US and the UK, to find out what stood out to them from the last year – and whether it was really that bad after all.

Politics, Pokémon and Podiums: the news that hit kids    

We asked US and UK kids how many major news stories from 2016 they recognised, and here were the top results:

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The major political decisions made on both sides of the Atlantic in 2016 – Brexit and the US presidential election  – were so huge that not even the younger generation could ignore them. Trump’s victory was the most recognised news story with both US and UK kids: this was reflected on our kids’ social content platform PopJam, with over 11,000 mentions of Trump and over 4,000 mentions of Clinton from users between the end of October and the holiday period. Brexit was the next most recognised news story for the UK.

Besides from political upheaval, the rise of Pokémon GO and the Rio Olympics were high on kids’ radars, more so than celebrity deaths of Prince in the US and Bowie in the UK. Which leads us to…

What kids discovered (or rediscovered) in 2016

2016 was the year that Pokémon came back into our lives with a vengeance. The virality of GO translated into success across many kids’ categories: Pokémon was consistently the most popular new game, toy and app that UK kids discovered in 2016. It was also very popular in the US, often in the context of Pokémon GO but also stuffed toys, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. The only other new toy discovery that came close was Spin Masters’ Hatchimals, following huge demand in the holiday period.

What new games did kids discover this year?

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What new toys did kids discover this year? 

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In the world of toys, VR headsets came to the fore in the US: this likely follows an increase in VR experiences being used in the classroom through products like Google Expedition, and could signal a turning point where virtual reality finally hits the mainstream this year (plans to scale up VR in UK schools are well underway).  

What did US and UK kids think of 2016 on the whole?

We gave kids the chance to tell us what they thought of 2016 in general, and here are the patterns that emerged:

US kids had a generally positive perception of 2016:

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“My best year because I moved to 2nd grade.”

“No different than other years.”

“It has been a chaotic year worldwide.”

“2016 was weird and full of surprises, most not good.”

And UK kids followed suit:

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“A weird year, with good and lots of bad things.”

“Horrible. Bowie died. Trump and Farage didn’t.”

“I have had a good year but children in other parts of the world have had a terrible time with so many wars and fighting.”

“It has been good. I changed to a better school. We got a new dog and some guinea pigs.”

So, was 2016 the worst year ever?

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In contrast to how 2016 is being remembered in the wider media, kids in both the US and the UK have a good perception of the past year on the whole. That being said, almost a quarter of kids in the UK and a third of kids in the US agree with the sentiment that ‘2016 was the worst year ever’. With the effects of some huge social and political changes due to materialise this year, we’ll see if this opinion changes.

For in-depth insights on centennials’ opinions, interests, and behaviours across the US, UK or APAC, from content preferences, digital activity, brand awareness and much more, please get in touch with our Insights team.

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