Teenagers: not, in fact, natural futurologists

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Do we put too much faith in the idea that teenagers are a good predictor of technology trends?

Yet the vast majority of your most-used things weren’t initially popular among teens. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, the Google search engine, YouTube, Twitter, Gmail, Google Maps, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the Kindle, blogs, the personal computer, none of these were initially targeted to, or primarily used by, high-school or college-age kids. Indeed, many of the most popular tech products and services were burdened by factors that were actively off-putting to kids, such as high prices, an emphasis on productivity and a distinct lack of fun. Yet they succeeded anyway.

Every time someone I work with says “but my teenagers do this thing, we should do that”, I shudder. They’re NOT good predictors of what will work, and any attempt to argue that comes across as a personal insult to those children’s parent. It’s pretty much a red flag that I should extricate myself from a project now.

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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.