Teenagers and technology

TEENAGE COMMUNICATION behavior is based around the need to belong and be significant. A social tool must support fundamental emotional drivers but will change depending on the life stage of the user.

By Jonas Heimer (Tech Tonic)

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Published: Sat 25 Aug 2012, 5:17 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:01 PM

While young people continuously create or adopt their own social tools, predicting the future of teenage communication has less to do with identifying the tools than identifying how they fulfill their emotional needs. These needs remain constant over time and drive behaviors that in turn lead people to discover social tools and create social spaces. Teenagers develop a sense of belonging through shared emotions rather than shared tools or activities.

Smoking was once a social tool, a way of belonging. These days, with smoking increasingly unpopular, technology and particularly the mobile phone are seen as the most popular social tools. With the constantly increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets by teenagers, texting and Facebook are considered to be their main social tools.

In a teenage context, the concept of social media effectively means Facebook which also applies for the 3,602,820 teen Facebook users in the GCC region. But while teenagers like it, they simply see it as a tool that is a complement to texting. The number of Facebook friends they have is much larger than those listed as contacts on their mobile phones. This contains an average of 55 contacts as opposed to the average of 265 friends they have on Facebook. However, teenagers tend to find that having too many Facebook friends (the average for the upper limit was 352) is considered strange.

While adults tend to use it to exchange information by making statements, teenagers express themselves through song lyrics and movie quotes. Teenagers also use Facebook emotionally, as an extension of their real-life relationships, whereas adults use it more rationally as a substitute for other forms of communication. The common usage of texting and Facebook has changed the dynamics of teenage dating. The biggest changes can be seen in the courting process where the goal is to ask the other person out on a date. Another obvious shift is the fact that changing your Facebook relationship status to “in a relationship” or “single” is now seen by friends as the official declaration.

The use of video chat is on the rise among teenagers. It combines their increasing use of digital technology with the desire for face-to-face interaction, and is used when meeting friends in person is impossible because of the distance separating them, or parental restrictions. This is more common between those who are more subject to parental restrictions than older teenagers which makes them the main users of video chat. During video chat, the most popular way of using the service is to actively chat with the other person, but it is also common for users to do homework or chores at the same time, to chat occasionally or simply “hang out.” It is expected that teens will carry the use of video chat and texting into later life stages.

Voice calls, on the other hand, are considered by teenagers to be more suitable for adults. Unsure about the unwritten rules of phone conversation, teens find it difficult to deal with “awkward pauses” on the phone, so they tend to make brief calls that last a maximum of four minutes.

Focusing on teenage behaviour acts as an important indicator for the future of devices as well as tomorrow’s technology and social media trends. It is evident that today’s teenagers and adults use the same available technology differently. As they get older, teenagers will start to use communication tools, such as voice and emails, in the same way as adults do but will also continue using “their” tools such as texting, Facebook and video chat. Representing today’s digital natives, teenagers will turn into digital immigrants as the future generation of digital natives sets the new technology trends.

Jonas Heimer, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Ericsson, Region Middle East.

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