Tech Talk
Generation Text: New Study Reveals the Truth About Youth and Their Love of Technology
By Beth Livesay
Aug 5, 2007 - 7:02:25 PM

It seems like something out of a movie: a generation of teenagers controlled and driven by all things nano and made with chips. Their language is obscure as well, possessing knowledge of terms such as “gigabytes” and “pixels.” When they say they are going to hang out with friends, what they really mean is they are going to instant message them on the internet, blog on MySpace, or text them via phone.

               The 21st century has ushered in a revolution, enabling kids to have a closer relationship with technology. Recently, MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft completed a study regarding 18,000 kids in 16 countries, investigating their interests with digital technology and that relationship with culture, gender and age. 21 technologies were surveyed including: internet, email, PC, TV, mobile, IM, cable and sat TV, DVD, MP3,

stereo/hi-fi, digital cameras, social networks, on and offline video games, CDs, HD TV, VHS, webcams, MP4 players, DVR/PVRs, and hand-held games consoles.

Contradicting assumptions, only 20% of 14-24 year olds are “interested” in technology. The meaning gathered from this information is that technology is seen only as a recreational tool, comparable to television and video games. 

Most important to youth is the ability to communicate as a result of technological advances. From mobile phones to email, kids and teens enjoy using technology to have closer friendships and better communication with peers. Communication not only establishes a closer connection with people around the world, but it also provides youth with a new form of entertainment. Means of communication and friendships are now as readily available as brand name clothing and can be marketed the same way via MySpace, AOL, Facebook etc. The internet and cell phone companies have thus found a way to corner the market on friendships, translating conversation and connectivity into cash.

Results of the study are surprising. Japan’s stereotype as technologically advanced and literate contradicts findings that Japanese teenagers use email the least out of the 16 countries surveyed, and that most Japanese youth, like Indian youth, rely on the cell phone as a status symbol.

Furthermore, China was the only market in which the computer was preferred to the television. Due to the restrictions on child bearing, most Chinese youth are only children, thus causing them to seek friendship and advice via the internet.

Danes on the other hand, prove to be dependent on other types of technology. 80% of Danes say they can’t live without their cell phones and 75% claim they cannot survive without television. 85% of Dutch youth say they cannot live without email. The majority preference of each country, however, was to meet people face-to-face as opposed to online. Chinese youth was the only group who preferred texting to in person interaction.

The greatest impact of technology is on 14-24 year olds, who utilize phones and computers for self-expression, meeting new people and keeping in touch. About half of this demographic said that it was easier to talk to people through internet communication rather than in person. Females ranging from 14-17 years old spend the least amount of time online, averaging only 21 hours a week; whereas males ages 22-24 average 31 hours a week. One hundred percent of those surveyed say they communicate every time they access the internet.

Phones, although a more traditional means of communication, have become more about safety than interacting with others. The study found that 68% of 8-14 year olds felt safer having a cell phone. In the UK, the number peaks at 81%. 71% of those surveyed said that their parents use cellular phones as a means of finding out where they are.

The notion of safety and parental control is associated with the internet as well. In Germany for example, only 25% of kids said that they loved the internet and this population ranked last in internet usage. It is speculated that the German youth’s disconnect to the internet is because of parental supervision and control.

Despite technological advances, the study determined that teens and kids still preferred hanging out with friends and watching television rather than spending time online. One major reason for this is that the computer requires being active and is often used as a tool in conjunction with studying or homework, whereas television can be watched lying down. One positive aspect of the rise of technology is the ability for youth to multi-task, a skill that proves beneficial throughout adolescence and adulthood.

It seems that the most basic means of entertainment and human interaction are preferred in the majority of places. Although language and geographic barriers can often prevent people from interacting, technology provides a common lingo and environment to unite those who are out of reach, so that they are never out of touch.

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