Time blogger Dan Fletcher is so dismissive of Morgan Stanley teenage intern Matthew Robson that he sounds a little jealous. “What exactly did Robson reveal? Well, not a lot,” Fletcher reports. His conclusion is that Matthew’s bosses at Morgan Stanley “need to spend a bit more time with their kids. Do that, and we suspect the revelation that teenagers like cell phones and free music will seem, well, a little less revelatory.” I agree that there’s much more value in listening to our own children than to Morgan Stanley about how teens use tech, but that’s because the way youth use tech is highly individual. Even Matthew Robson can’t tell you how your child uses technology and social media, but I can see real value in his views to marketers. The one useful bit in Fletcher’s post is his link to some data at social media market researchers Sysomos, who say that 31% of Twitter’s users are 15-19. That contrasts with the prevailing view, based on comScore research and anecdotal evidence from young people themselves (e.g., see “Why Gen Y’s not into Twitter” and the comment under this blog post of mine).
Hey, maybe Sysomos is onto something. But what is clear right now is that the assumption that teens will flock en masse to every new social technology (like Twitter) that comes along is just that: an assumption. We make too many assumptions about how youth use tech. Time’s Fletcher also made light of Matthew’s observation that teens were communicating more in game communities such as Xbox Live; what I drew from that, again, was not “wow, now they’re all going to flock to Xbox Live” but rather that here’s another little sign of teens’ communication diversification. Xbox Live, too, is a “social networking” tool, as are cellphones, World of Warcraft, and virtual worlds. That diversification is the real trend, I’m thinking. [Here’s my post about Matthew Robson last Monday. Thanks to my ConnectSafely.org co-director Larry Magid for pointing the Time post out.]