Sunday, July 29, 2007

Youth and digital life - what's really going on?

MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft have jointly prepared an in-depth study of 18,000 or so young people globally to find out how they're spending their digital lives. And there are some interesting findings, including:

Mobile usage:
Indian youth are most likely to see mobile phones as a status symbol and globally, under the age of 14, kids generally use the phone as a toy. After 14, the mobile phone quickly becomes a means of self-expression and communication.

68% of 8-14 respondents said they felt safer having their mobile phones with them outside the home, rising to 81% in the UK, and 71% said their parents use the phone to find out where they are.

Digital life:
Globally, the average young person connected to digital technology has 94 phone numbers in his or her mobile phone, 78 people on a messenger buddy list and 86 people in his or her social networking community.

Yet despite their technological immersion, digi-kids are not geeks
  • 59% of 8-14 year-old kids still prefer their TV to their PCs
  • Just 20% of 14-24 year-old young people globally admitted to being "interested" in technology.
They are, (as anyone who's ever watched a teenager at work), expert multi-taskers and able to filter different channels of information.

Kids and young people don't love the technology itself
  • they just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained.
  • Digital communications such as IM, email, social networking sites and mobile/sms are complementary to, not competitive with, TV. TV is part of young peoples' digital conversation.
  • Despite the remarkable advances in communication technology, kid and youth culture looks surprisingly familiar, with almost all young people using technology to enhance rather than replace face-to-face interaction.
What's happening in China?
China has lower mobile usage amongst young people, a less-evolved print media market and a family life of no siblings with parents and multiple grandparents. As a result, the internet provides a rare opportunity for only (and lonely) children to reach out and communicate using social networks, blogs and instant messaging. In stark contrast to their Japanese peers, 93% of Chinese respondents aged 8-14 have more than one friend online they have never met face to face.
"Chinese kids inhabit a world very different from their parents, and because of that they would rather find advice and support through their friends than through family," said Colleen Fahey Rush, Executive Vice President of Research for MTV Networks. Amongst 8-14s globally, only in China was TV not the No. 1 choice. "This is encouraging 8-14-year-olds in China to select online over TV, a trend not witnessed in any other market," she said.
Typical activities haven't changed much
For kids (8 to 14 year olds), they may be immersed in tech from the day they were born, but the things they enjoy doing most are:
  • 85% watching TV
  • 70% listening to music
  • 68% hanging out with friends
  • 67% playing video games
  • 51% spending time online
As they grow into teens so the ranking of their favorite pastimes change. At the top of the list of 14- 24s favorite pastimes is
  • 70% listening to music
  • 65% watching TV
  • 65% hanging out with friends
  • 60% watching DVDs
  • 60% relaxing
  • 59% going to cinema
  • 56% spending time online
  • 55% spending time with girl or boyfriend
  • 53% eating
  • 49% hanging out at home
"There is a powerful link between TV and the Internet, especially for 14- 24s. TV is watched to relieve stress. Sixty percent said they watched most of their TV lying down. But the Internet is cognitive and active, especially if young people are using it for studying or social situations," said Fahey Rush.

As with any research commissioned by large corporates, there's bound to be some bias towards the commissioning company, not least, because of the asking of the right questions 'Ask the right questions and you'll get the right answers'. MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft, clearly want to demonstrate the link between TV and online (and clearly there is a link as I write this with the TV on at the same time) but it's worth a look nevertheless. I'd love to see the whole report but I can't find any links to it. So if anyone else has found the link to the full shebang, please let me know by commenting here or dropping me an email.

You might also want to take a look at the official Viacom press release here and the MTV one here.