For kids, oldest medium matters most
Talking face to face tops all the high-tech toys
December 7, 2005
In some ways kids seem to be so different these days. Study after study shows how wired up they are and how much of their time they spend chatting on mobile phones and communicating on the internet with friends and family.
Yet it would seem that when it comes right down to it, one thing hasn’t changed. In most cases kids still prefer face to face communications.
Or so says a new report from Forrester Research, which is based upon a survey of more than 5,000 American and Canadian online youths between the ages of 12 and 21.
It’s true, as is so widely reported, that teenagers are using more technology at younger ages to connect with more people than ever before. In fact they have become veritable communication junkies, and far more so than adults.
For instance, some 83 percent of online youths use instant messaging compared to just 32 percent of online adults.
Younger consumers also go online more frequently. Nearly seven out of 10 say that they surf the web daily, versus 61 percent of those older than 21. Only 8 percent of youths access the internet once a week or less, compared to 16 percent for over-21s.
Kids’ love affair with the mobile phone is no less intense. They tend to have much more sophisticated phones than adults, and they actually use the features. Among adults, two thirds report owning basic phones, lacking camera functions and web access. Among the 12-to-21 set, just 43 percent admit to owning basic phones. The remainder, a majority, are armed with phones that do it all, or nearly so.
Further, online 12-21s are media multi-taskers. Some 36 percent have broadband, a mobile phone and use instant messaging. That’s nearly three times greater than the number of online adults.
Are these numbers surprising? Certainly not. Forrester is putting figures to trends we have all become aware of, if only from walking down the street.
The surprise comes with how kids would most like to communicate.
Researchers asked the teens what form of communications they would rather use in a variety of situations. They could chose from meeting in person, instant messaging, email, mobile phones and landline phones.
The result was that meeting in person was the No. 1 choice for all but two circumstances described in the survey.
For instance, for sensitive situations, such as scrounging money or relaying bad news, 69 percent and 57 percent respectively would rather talk in person than use either instant messaging, email, mobile phones or a landline.
The same holds true for happy situations, such as sharing good news. Some 49 percent would rather do this in person, compared to any one of the other choices.
It was also the first choice for talking about schoolwork and figuring out what to buy, with 35 percent and 43 percent of the votes.
It was the first choice for communicating with family members of all generations. Even for communicating with friends and planning social events it was the first choice, if by a nose.
The only areas where teens would be more likely to use any one of the other methods of communicating were when meeting face to face was difficult. For example, they are more likely to use instant messaging to shoot the breeze with people they only see occasionally and more likely to use their mobile phones to chat with friends and family far away.
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