'Tweens: Young Kids, Big Bucks

Cynthia Bowers is a CBS News correspondent based in Chicago.
Sure I'd heard about Hannah Montana, what parent of a 'tween or even teenage girl hasn't? Her show is on TV and my teenage daughter watches, just like all her friends.

The phenomenon wasn't something I gave much thought to until my daughter came to me last week and told me tickets for the December Hannah Montana show were going for more than a thousand dollars on Stub Hub. She was hoping I had some pull to help find cheaper tickets. What? Tickets to a concert featuring a TV character?

I told my daughter that I don't have that kind of pull—and even if I did, I wouldn't/couldn't use it. Secondly, I wondered, isn't she a little old for Hannah Montana? Apparently not. She and her friends are fifteen - which is definitely the upper edge of the fan spectrum. Most of the gaga girls are between eight and 13. All but the very youngest know the real name of the singer - a term I use loosely - is Miley Cyrus; that she is 14-years-old and the real life daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus. Remember "Achy Breaky Heart"? But the girls still insist on calling her Hannah Montana; which is probably why Cyrus is singing part of her show as Hannah, the other part as Miley Cyrus.

All of the sudden I started noticing all the merchandise being sold with Hannah Montana's picture on it. There are t-shirts, purses, jeans, and PJs. Every year American tweens, there are 20 million of them, spend about 40 billion dollars. And help their families decide how to spend 110 billion more. This economic engine is bigger than most countries. Today's kids, perhaps more than any other generation, are the target audience. If you can hook a kid young, you can keep him for life. I may only buy a couple of dozen more pair of jeans. My daughter on the other hand will likely buy hundreds over the course of her life.

So, is it any wonder that big corporations want to tap into the "wealth" of little kids? I understand that, but that doesn't mean I'm going to buy my daughter tickets to Hannah Montana.