How teenagers communicate: 7 things you should know

A study from Ericsson ConsmerLab explored the way teenagers communicate. Do the results jibe with the way the teens in your life behave?


Been paying attention to the way the teenagers in your life communicate?

Besides the parenting implications of turning a blind eye, observing American’s burgeoning adults will help predict their media habits as they grow older—or so says a study this month from Ericsson ConsumerLab.

“As they get older, teenagers start to use communication tools in the same way as adults,” Ann-Charlotte Kornblad, senior advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, said in a press release. “They will continue to use ‘their’ tools such as texting, Facebook and video chat, but at the same time, they understand the need to use voice and email as they move into the next stage of their lives.”

For the time being, however, you can rest assured that most teens think land lines and email are lame, according to the study, which interviewed nearly 2,000 teens ages 13 to 17. Ericsson ConsumerLab said the respondents are representative of teens throughout the United States.

Here are seven useful (or at least interesting) takeaways from the study:

Face-to-face communication is tops among teens. The study asked teenagers to rank the methods of communication they would most miss if taken away, and 58 percent cited “in real life” as No. 1. Here’s the full list:

1. Meet “in person” (58 percent ranked it No. 1)
2. Texting (28 percent)
3. Talk on the mobile phone (5 percent)
4. Facebook (5 percent)
5. Talk on the home phone, email, video chat, chat, Twitter (tie at 1 percent)

They keep their phone calls brief. The study found that teenagers think phone calls are “more suitable for adults,” because they’re unsure about the “unwritten rules of phone conversation.” As a result, they typically keep their phone calls short: 53 percent of teens—59 percent of boys and 47 percent of girls—said their calls last less than four minutes, according to the study.

Video chats are becoming more popular. Twenty-three percent of the study respondents said they were “engaging in more video chats,” and 83 percent of teens who use the platform do so at least once a week. That makes sense—it combines some attributes of face-to-face interaction with the ease of technology. More than one-third of teen video chatters said they use it for homework (just as previous generations primarily used their cell phones and home phones for homework—ahem).

Facebook and texting are important tools for dating. Although teenagers still meet prospective boyfriends or girlfriends in person, they rely on Facebook and text messages to continue the courting process. For instance, after meeting someone in real life, teens will look the person up on Facebook before asking him or her on a date—which is of course done via text message. Here’s the breakdown:

Teenagers use Facebook emotionally. Adults, the study noted, tend to use Facebook as a substitute for other forms of communication. Teenagers, on the other hand, “use Facebook emotionally, as an extension of their real-life relationships.”

The most common Facebook activity for teens is “liking” and creeping. And by creeping, we mean looking at other people’s profiles.

Mobile phones are the new smoking. Not because some studies have said the cell phones cause cancer (at least not in the context of this study), instead it refers to teenagers’ strong desire to belong. “Young people create or adopt their own social tools—which should ideally exclude their parents and older generations,” the study said. “Smoking was once a social tool, a way of belonging. These days, with smoking increasingly unpopular, technology—and particularly the mobile phone—is seen as the most popular social tool.”

(via Jody Koehler)

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