Facebook, Social Networks and Teens

Teenager sending text message on cell phoneRecently I listened to an excellent talk by Dr. Jeffrey Cole (Director, Center for the Digital Future, of the USC Annenberg School) about Social Networks, the digital media and our teens. His research and insights into this digital revolution that we are growing through threw some interesting light on our teen generation. The teens today use technology in ways we never thought of. The entire digital industry is geared up to develop new gadgets and gizmos for the new generation. The social networking phenomenon like Facebook, Orkut and others have demonstrated how much influence this new generation has in defining the shape of digital media.  Dr. Cole lists few characteristics of a teen in this and our future digital generation.

  • They will never read a newspaper. However that does not mean that they don’t want to stay informed. They get their news from other sources rather than print media. Some print media still attracts their interest, for example magazines like Vogue and Bazar cannot be replaced by online media just because the glossy paper, and the sniffable perfume ads cannot be reproduced online.
  • They will never own a land-line phone. Mobile phone will be their center of the universe. They want to communicate, socialize, get entertained, get their information, do financial transactions and conduct their business using their mobile phones. You may have noticed that teenagers do not wear wrist watches – they see time on their mobile phones.
  • They won’t watch television on the schedules set by the networks. They want to create their own schedule – hence Tivo, PVR and DVR, Hulu.com and YouTube!
  • They trust unknown peers more than experts.
  • They are least interested in the source of information – they just want the information.
  • Their internet experience centers on their communities. The popularity of on-line social networks amongst teens proves that.  They use these communities to socialize and communicate. They also use it as their source of information.
  • They think that they are not affected by advertisements and branding, but that is far from truth. How many teens do you think would accept a generic MP3 player other than an iPod?
  • They want to be able to move their content freely and easily from platform to platform. They don’t want content that ties them to a specific device (like your DVD player and TV in your basement).
  • They want to be heard. That’s why they are on Facebook, they are on these blogs and other Web 2.0 media. As Dr. Cole puts it, they don’t want 15 minutes of fame, they’d like 15 Megabytes of fame!
  • Instant Messaging (IM, SMS, Scraps, Walls) is their mode of communication. They think email is for their parents.

Being a parent of teenagers, I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Cole’s observations.  I am sure, you do too.  Online social networking can be a great tool. I am on Facebook too and I am also on Orkut and Linked-in. However, I am nowhere close to the extent my kids use it. For us it is more like a curiosity, for them it is their lifeline.

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