Keeping Up With The Kids

I’ve come across a couple articles about American kids and their mobile/online behavior. The first comes from USA Today and talks about how young people are using their handsets for shopping. There’s a lot of stuff in there that sounds like vendor hype, but some of the behavioral stuff is worth noting — in particular, the bit about kids sending images and messages around while they’re shopping, to validate their purchases with their peer group.

The second article is a writeup of some stats from the Pew Internet and American Life project, which does ongoing research into how Americans use the internet and digital services. They’ve got a new report out on Teens and Social Media that’s probably worth checking out if you’re active or interested in this space. In any case, the report looked out how kids are communicating with each other:

Nearly 40 percent of teens say they talk to friends on a traditional wired phone every day, and 35 percent say they do so on cell phones, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said Wednesday, analyzing its phone surveys from late 2006. Thirty-one percent of teens say they spend time in person with friends every day. Fewer teens say they communicate daily using instant messaging, text messages or internal messaging systems at Facebook, News Corp.’s MySpace or another social-networking site. Confirming anecdotal evidence, e-mail has lost favor among teens. It ranked at the bottom — used daily by only 14 percent of teens to keep in touch with friends.

Ninety-one percent of the social-networking teens use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently; 82 percent use them to keep contact with those they rarely see in person. Three-quarters use them to make plans, and half say they make new friends there.

Note how kids are communicating, and how voice calls remain important. One of the Pew researchers says it’s because voice can offer a richer experience than other forms of speaking. But perhaps the bigger takeaway is that online and digital communications platforms drive real-world interaction. While there’s a widely held belief that kids are replacing in-person, face-to-face social contact with online interaction, maybe that’s not the case, and they’re using online services to enhance their face-to-face interactions.

It’s important to recognize that these kids don’t necessarily have a finite amount of communicative ability, especially as online and digital media make communications more efficient. They’re multi-taskers, and have a voracious appetite for platforms and services that help them communicate and connect with their friends. Increasing the efficiency and efficacy of communications is important for these users, and it certainly appears they’re interested in using online services that can help promote offline interaction.

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