Connecting with the Mobile, Online Generation

Content Insider #811 – Teens Change

By Andy Marken –

Connecting with the Mobile, Online Generation

“But when he came back, he had something attached to his face, some kind of parasite. We tried to take it off but it wouldn’t come off; but soon it sort of came off all by itself and died. Kane seemed fine, we were all having dinner. I don’t know what, but that thing must have layed something inside his throat, some kind of embryo.” – Ripley, “Aliens,” 20th Century Fox, 1986

Perhaps the Boston-area English teacher’s commencement address last year was right.

The graduates aren’t special or exceptional … just different.

They’re different significantly from him, from Gen X/Yers, Boomers.

Helping them be different, better, more tolerant and less violent is one of the main reasons older generations are around.  

In their constantly connected, open world, that’s one of the reasons parents have to take more than a passing interest in the kids. They should: 

  • Talk with kids about ways to use the internet and cell phones safely
  • Talk with them about ways to behave toward other people online or on the phone
  • Talk with pre-teens and teens about what they do on the internet
  • Talk with kids about what kinds of things should and should not be shared online or on a cell phone
  • Check to see what information is available online about their kids 
  • Check their social network site profile
  • Check which websites you/your child visits
  • Friend their children on social media and in the real world
  • Use  parental controls and tools to block, filter, monitor their online activities
  • Used parental controls to restrict, guide their phone use

Checking In – It’s true that teens tend to feel their parents don’t trust them or their decisions when they look over their online shoulder; but the truth is the online world is like a wild “anything goes” frontier and sometimes it takes an experienced eye to spot potential problems before they become disasters. 

Kids are pretty smart, which is why one of them explained it like Hicks, “I like to keep this handy… for close encounters.”

Teens are also fervent communicators. 

You probably don’t remember that far back, but they’re somewhere between being a child and adult; and in our online world, they’re getting inputs, ideas from everywhere, everyone.

Today, they’re able to continually communicate with everyone who is important – and irrelevant – in their lives:  friends and peers, parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, other adults and institutions. 

They look at us with amazement and disbelief and like Newt in Alien they reassure us by saying, “Don’t be sorry, it wasn’t your fault.” 

Online World – While Millennials were raised on the Internet, teens have quickly passed them in being online. In addition, they do it with any/all of the devices they have – whatever is at hand – smartphone, tablet, computer. 

The average 13- to 17-year-old spends an average of 4.5 hours online doing everything from instant messaging, watching TikToks/videos, visiting social networking sites, online shopping and listening to music.

Changing Priorities Adults sometimes feel their teens spend all of their time online communicating with everyone; but they actually become more selective in what they do, what they share. As teens become more selective with their social media activity, they choose those things that give them greatest satisfaction and keep them in touch with a closer group of friends, family members. 

While a lot of folks say all of this online activity is bad for kids and isolating them from the real world, research by OTX indicates that teens are a little more complex, more sophisticated, better founded that you might think.

Given a Choice – While older generations are concerned that teens and pre-tweens are isolating themselves too much from the world around them, teens seem to have a better foundation than you might think. They don’t constantly hide behind their mobile devices; and given a choice, they want to share personal contacts

Given the choice, teens prefer real friends to online friends.

They’d rather date someone from school than someone they became “friends” with on the Internet.

 They prefer to shop in a store more than shopping online or in the virtual world.

The big difference between them and “us” is that for us, being online usually means using our iPad or computer. 

For teens, being online simply means being online with the device they have at the time.

Increasingly according to Pew Research that’s their smartphone which is always in the hand or close at hand. 

Overall, 99 percent of teens in the US have smartphones while 66 percent of them globally have a mobile device.

Social Animals – Teens are certainly social animals as they constantly update and monitor their online locations and online activities as well as those around them. Some industry experts estimate that 25 percent of the Facebook members are actually teenagers and younger. 

And they use them for everything.

Messaging is the centerpiece of mobile teen communications.  

Their monthly exchanges hit 3,417 per teen last quarter according to Nielsen, which is roughly seven messages per waking hour (and you wondered why they didn’t call).  

Actually, voice calls declined significantly with this group from an average of 685 minutes to 572 minutes. 

It turns out they prefer messaging to calling because:

  • It’s faster (22 percent)
  • It’s easier (21 percent)
  • It’s more fun (18 percent)
  • It’s more easily shared (15 percent)

Hunt ‘n Peck – Touch typing isn’t taught much in school today, but that hasn’t seemed to slow down teenagers whose thumbs and fingers fly across the keyboard to send text messages. Texting has leveled off slightly in this age group as more and more activities consumer their waking hours. 

According to Pew Research, among the texting teens:

  • Half send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month; and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month
  • 15 percent of teens who are texters send more than 200 texts a day, or more than 6,000 texts a month
  • Boys typically send and receive 30 texts a day; girls typically send and receive 80 messages per day
  • A substantial minority are not heavy texters – 22 percent of teen texters send and receive just 1-10 texts a day or 30-300 a month

In addition to messaging, they were busy with the mobile internet, social networking, email, app downloads and app usage.

The older crowd which only understands the three-minute phone call, finally understands what Ripley meant in Alien when she said, “Well, I don’t care how, but we better think of something. We better think of a way.” 

The most popular activities are taking and sharing pictures and playing music:

  • 83 percent use their phones to take pictures
  • 64 percent share pictures with others
  • 60 percent play music on their phones
  • 46 percent play games on their phones
  • 32 percent exchange videos on their phones
  • 31 percent exchange instant messages on their phones
  • 27 percent go online for general purposes on their phones 
  • 23 percent access social network sites on their phones
  • 21 percent use email on their phones
  • 11 percent purchase things via their phones

Bishop saw all the things teens could do with their smartphones and said, “Not bad for a human.”

O.K., since teens were almost born online and they’re constantly available, it’s pretty easy for marketing folks to believe it’s a great/easy way for them to reach, influence teens.  

Heck, having an exciting, “fun” social media location is an easy (and inexpensive) way to sell them. 

You know an exciting place for them to gather and convince them with great games, music, videos, closed communities. 

Sorry folks, they’re smarter than they look.

Beyond Like – Companies and product/brand managers may find it somewhat satisfying to count the growing number of people who post their Likes on their social media pages; but the real measure is how often teens recommend companies, products to friends, family members. Personalized recommendations carry a lot more weight. 

Instead of being able to quickly, easily influence them, it turns out that friends and peers are a vital part of their research/ buying experience. 

As a matter of fact, teens get and give advice at high rates, so they wield a large influence over their peer groups.  

That means all you have to do is find those teens out there who have a strong online presence.

You know, those who regularly post TikTok and YouTube videos (the second-biggest social site, according to the Ketchum study), develop a relationship and create offerings to help them share information/news and shop together online.

Sounds easy … like shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel.

Oh, we forgot to tell you to avoid the hot buttons that annoy teens: push marketing and treating them like children.

Approach/work with teens professionally and you’ll probably hear them repeat Ripley’s observation, “We’re not leaving!”

Andy – is an author of more than 800 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications. An internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields; he has an extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media and industry analysts/consultants.

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