Young Americans want phones more than cars?!

By Anne Collier

Wow, remember the film American Grafitti? It’s ancient history more than ever now. Gartner research found that 46% of Americans 18-24 “prefer access to the Internet over access to their own car, and that teens drive less overall today than they did in past generations,” Forbes reports, “highlighting the impact of technology on kids and the auto industry’s future challenges.” Not a huge surprise, really, but that compares to 15% of baby boomers. Think about it this way: Both smartphones and cars enable people to connect with their friends, but while we’re thinking of them as social tools, the former offers more ways to connect with friends (social sites, video chat, social games, and of course voice chat) and those ways are more immediate and convenient. Also, people can stay connected while walking or on buses, subway trains, etc. (hopefully not while driving) – on the way to seeing their friends! This is the moment-by-moment connectivity that parents are all too aware of, though none of this is to say that hanging out in person isn’t still really important to young people. The Pew Internet Project found that “traditional means of communications such as in-person visits and the landline telephone conversations are the primary ways by which people keep up with those in their social networks.” But look for more social-media features in cars. “To keep up with the trend, the auto industry has gradually begun integrating smartphone-type features like built-in GPS devices, Bluetooth, and iPod docks into their newest car models,” according to Forbes, so cars can make a comeback for teens. [Here’s the latest from Pew on teens in social media.]

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