Teenagers and tech: look at the trends, not the tools?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Mathew Ingram responds to Farhad Manjoo on how telling teenagers’ use of tech is:

[…] teens and twenty-somethings are good predictors of technology’s future, even if the services or apps or hardware they prefer at a specific point in time don’t become a “winner” in market terms. And that’s why companies like Facebook — and investors who hold shares in them — should be concerned when they see younger users dropping off or adopting other services.

I’m not sure that I entirely agree with either of them – Manjoo is pretty clearly accurate when he points out that some major trends that do come to pass aren’t led by teenagers, and it’s not just the financially gated ones either – Twitter is one example of a service that has traction but which teens came to late, if at all.

But equally, Ingram is correct in saying that the behaviours of teens are more telling than the services they use. Teens’ use of Bebo and MySpace in the mid-2000s heralded the rise of Facebook rather than a growth in the two sites they were using at the time. The trend was telling, rather than the sites.

So – look at teens’ usage of disparate tools to maintain a loose, non-centralised network as the key message of today’s situation, not at the particular services they’re using to do that with right now. Indeed, if anything, this promiscuous use of a variety of tools makes it less likely that any one will become significant in the long-term – as swapping out any element of their social toolbox becomes significantly easier than it was in the centralise social network era.

And, of course, once their parents figure out they’re doing it, that’s exactly what they’ll do. Snapchat’s in the papers. The clock is ticking…

snapchatSocial Mediasocial networkingtech adoptionteenagerstrends

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.