Pew Internet: Teens and Technology 2013
How we communicate has changed rapidly over the last few years, and some of the greatest changes in behavior have been seen among teenagers, who are often “early adopters” of technologies. New applications and gadgets, though, can now quickly become commonplace and mainstream.
For example, a 2010 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan’s Department of Communication Studies, “Teens and Mobile Phones,” focused on the rise of texting — a noteworthy trend at that time. The proportion of cell phone-owning teens who sent text messaging on a daily basis rose from slightly over 33% in early 2008 to more than 50% in September 2009; and the trendline has continued upward for teens who text. But it is a testament to the speed of technological change that, in a few short years, texting may already seem to many a more “traditional” form of communication, compared to newer social media-driven forms.
A 2013 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Society for Internet & Society surveyed more than 800 parents and 800 teens ages 12 to 17 in late 2012. The error margin is 4.5 percentage points.
The report’s findings include:
- More than a third of American teens — 37% — are now estimated to have a smartphone, or Internet-enabled mobile device; this figure is up from 23% in 2011. Seventy-eight percent own a cell phone, a figure that is largely unchanged compared to 2011 survey data.
- Twenty-three percent of teens have a tablet computing device, and 95% of teens say they use the Internet. Among parents whose households earn less than $30,000 annually, 89% report having Internet access (in some form); for parents in households earning more than $50,000 the rate of access to the Internet is 99%.
- Some 74% of teens say they access the Internet through mobile devices at least occasionally; this level of mobile Internet usage is the same as it is among all adults under age 50.
- “Although teen girls and boys are equally likely to have smartphones and are equally likely to use some kind of mobile access to the internet, girls are significantly more likely than boys to say they access the Internet mostly using their cell phone (29% vs. 20%). Older teen girls represent the leading edge of cell-mostly internet use; 34% of them say that most of their internet use happens on their cell phone. Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55% say they use the Internet mostly from their phone.”
The Berkman Center’s Youth and Media project offers research papers on a variety of teen-related topics, including “From Credibility to Quality Information” and “Parents, Teens and Online Privacy.” For media members examining the implications for news practice and business models see the post titled “Mobile News: A Review and Model of Journalism in an Age of Mobile Media.”
Tags: communication, technology, youth, telecommunications, mobile tech
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Parents of Teenagers Say They Worry That Online Activities Might Hurt Children in the Future."
- What key insights from the news article and the study in this lesson should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?
Read the full report titled "Teens and Technology 2013."
- What are the study's key technical terms? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?