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Sure, teens text. But not nearly “everyone” yet

Submitted by on Wednesday, 26 August 2009 2 Comments

Has your teen been on your tail for unlimited texting because “everyone” is doing it?

Au contraire, you can say. Only 38 percent of your friends text daily. In fact, you can add, 42 percent have never, ever, ever sent a text message.

Fine, then get a cell phone without texting. I have to have it to stay in touch, the teen will counter.

Then do it the old-fashioned way – with a phone hooked to a wall. That’s how 88 percent of the country’s teens say they talk to their friends. You can be a little generous and get a cordless, but don’t fall for the “everyone’s doing it” line here either.

Those findings are according to the latest survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The report says that while ownership among teens has climbed from 45 percent in 2004 to 71 percent last year, cell phones aren’t even the most coveted youth tech gadget.

That honor would go to gaming consoles – 77 percent of teens have them. Runner-up is the mp3 player, at 74 percent.

Mobile gaming is passe for the older set – and no wonder. In a day when kindergarteners tote Nintendo DS systems, those have to be regarded as baby toys now.

And if 5-year-olds already have their hands on $100 gadgets, what’s going to happen to the numbers in future Pew surveys?

Cell phone ownership among teens simply can’t continue to grow as rapidly as it has. It’s already at 71 percent – compared to 77 percent of adults – so that market’s going to be tapped out soon.

That means marketers have two options: Push cell phone ownership on increasingly younger groups and developing smart phone applications that are like DS but without the kiddy taint. Both moves are relatively easy.

The first step in selling more cells is to appeal to the fear factor among parents. Step up campaigns to market them as the latest must-have security gear for the helicopter set. Once cells start marching through grade schools in greater numbers – the youngest kid I’ve seen with a cell is 9, though I’m sure that’s no where near the youngest on record – the “everyone’s doing it” pressure will mount.

As far as smart phones, kids already are clamoring for those late in grade school. That’s primarily the texting addicts, though. Develop more and more interesting gaming applications and you’ll hook more converts.

PlayStation Portable already allows instant messaging, Net access and calls via voice over Internet protocol. It will be interesting to see which comes first: The gaming system widely accepted as a phone or the other way around.

It all depends on who can get there first with the “everyone’s doing it” buzz and make it stick.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Lisa said:

    I’m good till about 8th grade. LOL My daughter’s school won’t let the kids have them on the premises at all.

  • Debra said:

    I’m not even sure what the policy is in our new district, but Big Guy’s in a K-2 school, so I’m a bit safer than I was at a K-6. At his old school, the policy was “put them away” but that wasn’t always happening in the later grades. Plus the guys are the youngest of the cousins, so the clamoring has started already!